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Archives: Merzbau

2018 28 Sep

The Merzbarn fake

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Seit ich die email von Russell Mills gelesen habe, fühle ich mich wie in die Fälscherwerkstatt von Beltracchi versetzt. Kein Trost ist, dass ein Kunstkenner wie Werner Spies eingestehen musste, dass er einen gefälschten Max Ernst für einen echten gehalten hatte.

Für mich war der Merzbau von Kurt Schwitters in der Nähe von Ambleside der einzig „Übriggebliebene“, den ich unbedingt sehen wollte. Was habe ich da eigentlich gesehen?


Hi Lajla, 

glad to hear that you had a good visit to Ambleside and to the Armitt Museum, and that you discovered much more about Schwitters. If and when you next visit the Lake District I’d strongly advise you to avoid the Cylinders estate at Elterwater and the two charlatans (Ian Hunter and Celia Larne who work under the name the Littoral Arts Trust) that run the site. The so-called Merzbarn contains no work by or evidence of Schwitters‘ time here, despite Littoral’s claims to the contrary. The building itself, no more than a 1940s lean-to shed, has been altered so much since 2006 that there is nothing of its original structure left. Littoral have received in excess of £1 million in grants-much of it public taxpayers money – and the barn is still a near-derelict, damp shed. They cannot explain where all this money has gone. They have persistently distorted Schwitters´ legacy in the Lake District with outright lies about his time here, designed to get publicity, sympathy and ultimately more bailouts. Because of Littoral’s appalling behaviour and mismanagement of the site, the Arts Council, the Tate, the MoMa NY, the Hatton Gallery in New Castle, the Armitt, and Abbot Hall Gallery in Kendal all refuse to have anything to do with them. If you wish to learn more read various texts and letters on my website

All best wishes 



Es war früher Abend, als ich rausfuhr, um mir den Merzbau anzusehen. Der Busfahrer ließ mich vor dem grossen eisernen Tor aussteigen und meinte: „I pick you up in 30 minutes.“ Ich öffnete die schwere Eisentür und ging ein Stück am Wald entlang. Ich sah auf dem Weg Skulpuren, Collagen, die ich Kunststudenten zuordnete. In dem Stall/barn fasste ich die Figuren von Schwitters an und wunderte mich, dass sie nicht aus Stein waren, sondern ich fühlte einen harten Stoff. Plane? Ich wusste, dass Schwitters damals schon sehr krank war und nur noch stundenweise dort arbeiten konnte. Auf dem Rückweg zum grossen Eisentor sprachen mich – out of the blue – zwei elegante ältere Damen an, ob ich denn die Ausstellung gesehen hätte. Ich verneinte und machte klar, dass ich nur wegen Kurt Schwitters hier wäre. Ich war schon am Tor, als die Eine zu schimpfen anfing, wie ich überhaupt hierher gekommen sei. „By bus!“


Kurt Schwitters - "Portrait of Dr. George A. Johnston"


Dieses Gemälde hängt in dem kleinen Museum in Ambleside. Schwitters hatte seinen Arzt gemalt. Der ist echt.


Another reason to come to the Island – beside visiting The Beatles in Liverpool – is my deepening admiration for Kurt Schwitters. I cannot count how often I introduced his art to my students.

I traveled to Ambleside, where Schwitters lived a couple of years before he died in 1948. Right now I am sitting in Daisy’s Café, where he used to come to look at the little market across the street, peering for people who he could portray to earn some money with. In this time Schwitters was very poor and already sick. But with still his young love ‚Wanatee‘ on his side happy.

In the little Museum Armitt in Ambleside they show some of his oilpaintings, some collages and pieces from the Merzbarn.

Asbestos Tile


Where he lived, he hadn’t much space to produce art. He painted on small pieces he cut off from lino or wood. It was a glorious day for him, when Wanatee found a barn for him, outside of Ambleside. Immediately he started with his 3rd MERZBAU. I went there and found myself in a dark room, where a candle was lit. I saw the painted stonestructures, which appeared to me as precious jewels, which reflect the colours of the landscape in the Lake District. I always wanted to visit his MERZBARN and now I was here. Deeply touched.

Outside the Merzbarn


Inside the Merzbarn


Afterwards I went back to the library of the Armitt Museum. There I discovered a collage on the wall, dedicated to Kurt. Signed by Russell Mills. I asked in the local bookstore, who is Russell. The bookseller said: „What a man he is!“ and gave me two addresses. RUSSELL MILLS was not in town. I googled and „doors of perception“ were opened. Russell is a great artist, longlife friend to Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel. With David Sylvian he created „Ember Glance“. In his studio in Ambleside he produces covers for musicians and books. He works on mixed media pieces using light and sound.

Schwitters influenced him a large part in his art. “ … Schwitters believed that, following the mindless carnage of the Great War, and the subsequent shattering of the certainties of the old world order, all that remained was fragments, so that was what he could work with. These ideas, along with those culled from close observation of the natural world, have shaped my thinking enormously. These ideas also suggest a worrying parallel between the dangerous folly of those days and the present fragility of the world with the uncertainty of Trump and Brexit looming over us.“

Russell Mills in his studio in Ambleside


There is no wealth but life  John Ruskin
Here in this house in Grasmere the ‚three opium brothers‘, as I call them, were pondering: „I took it – and in an hour, oh! Heavens! What a revulsion! What an upheaving  from its lowest depths, of the inner spirit! What an apocalypse of the world within me …

Yeah, you read this book: „Confessions of an opium eater“. Thomas De Quincey(1785-1859). He had a deepening admiration for  Samuel Taylor Coleridge  (1772-1834). To him Coleridge was the greatest man that has ever appeared. But Coleridge thought of himself that he would not be a gifted poet. He thought of William Wordsworth (1770-1850), that he was the one and only one …

The Dove Cottage


In this house, it belonged to Wordsworth, a lot of the most beautiful poems and ballads were written (1. from Coleridge, 2. from Wordsworth).

What is life?


Resembles life what once was held of light,

Too ample in itself for human sight?

An absolute self? an element ungrounded?

All, that we see, all colours of all shade by encroach of darkness made?

Is very life by consciousness unbounded?

And all the thoughts, pains, joys of mortal breath

A war-embrace of wrestling life and death?




At the corner of Wood-Street, when daylight appears

There’s a Thrush that sings loud, it has sung for three years:

Poor Susan has passed by the spot, and has heard

In the silence of morning the song of the bird.

‚Tis a note of enchantment; what ails her? She sees

A mountain ascending, a vision of trees;

Bright volumes of vapour through Lothbury glide,

And a river flows on through the Vale of Cheapside.

Green pastures she views in the midst of the dale,

Down which she so often has tripp’d with her pail;

And a single small cottage, a nest like a dove’s,

The one only Dwelling on earth that she lived.

She looks, and her Heart is in Heaven: – but they fade,

The mist and the river, the hill and the shade;

The stream will not flow, and the Hill will not rise,

And the colours have all pass’d from her eyes.


I must admit that I enjoyed the local pub ‚Unicorn‘ very much. I spent there great nights with Sue from St. VINCENT – we have now a reader on that Carribean Island … :)

In the pub they played great live music. I especially liked songs from

Pete Morton: Another train

Allan Taylor: The Traveller

Chris Miller: Jamming

Bob Dylan: North Country Blues


Let me finish with a final quote from John Ruskin, whose home I visited also in the Lake District:
we did not travel for adventures, nor for company, but to see with our eyes and to measure with our hearts.

Brantwood, home of John Ruskin


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