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Frankfurt sinks in fire and tear gas


The creation of this installation took almost 8 years and is deeply rooted in the chaos of our time.

The artist gives a personal and unembellished account of how this work of art came into being. Of all the failed attempts and dead ends.

Normally there is no opportunity to see inside the head of an artist. We were able to persuade Sven Sauer to give an uncensored insight into the creation of the artwork. 


Frankfurt is on fire, Source:southgerman newspaper,©dpa

Police cars burned in Frankfurt on 18 March 2015. The protests against the opening of the ECB headquarters got out of control. 

By chance, I was in Frankfurt that day. It wasn't even light yet when the first barricades were burning. The police reacted with pepper spray grenades. The underground and suburban trains stopped running. The city centre was deserted. Dark columns of smoke stood over the city and helicopter noises were in the air everywhere.

On that day, half of all German water cannons were to be assembled in Frankfurt.

I have been interested in art for as long as I can remember. The subject of money had no significance in my world of thought. That is, I have no relationship to money as a possession. On that day, that changed. While in the 1990s the "description" of money was associated with a whole spectrum of feelings such as "stinginess and joy", this changed drastically in the 2000s.

With the financial crisis, more abstract feelings now dominated: they were still most easily described as uncertainty, inner pressure and fear. In 2008, the real estate market collapsed. The chain reaction that was triggered by this still determined our lives in 2015. The Blockupy movement emerged. Greece was put in a dubious position by the ECB from today's perspective. 


My grandmother told us about the hunger she felt during the long escape march from Silesia at the end of the Second World War. She described that the defining symptom was not the pain of hunger, but that all her thoughts during the day revolved exclusively around food. The lack of food meant that she could not think about anything else.

In my generation, "money" seems to have taken over this role of hunger. Fear of losing status and the belief in unrestrained growth are omnipresent.

In Frankfurt, this feeling was discharged into two camps: 

One that responded with aggression... and another camp that fell motionless silent.

It is difficult to describe what the trigger was in Frankfurt.

The police were shocked by the extent of the violence. Politicians placed permanent banning miles around the European Central Bank and, to this day, entrenched themselves behind law enforcement officers and huge fences along the Main. When the press inquired why the escalation occurred, rulers and organisers of the originally peaceful demonstrations fell silent.

Blockupy protests, Source:FNP, © Scheh

It was an elusive feeling that we perceived that morning in Frankfurt. To this day, I find it difficult to describe it in words. These are the moments when the first ideas arise in my head. I almost always start with an art series because I want to understand something.

Perhaps it is true that art begins at the point when all other means of expression fail? However, this tactic doesn't always work.


Over the next 8 months, I worked my way into the world of finance. I talked to mathematicians. I learned how speculative bubbles have been building for centuries, following the same pattern. Over and over again. 


In 2016, the first pictures. At this point they are dominated by burnt places, flooded by black-clad police columns. The images are based on original sites of proxy wars, assembled from media images released on television. Disassembled contemporary witnesses that I keep painting over and recombining - an attempt to understand the global feeling of our time. How are all these events connected?


Then I discovered an event in the Netherlands in the 16th century that went down in history under the term "tulip fever". The tulip crisis is considered the first relatively well-documented speculative bubble in economic history. I have been told that this topic is part of every business studies course. The tulip crisis is also used metaphorically for risky financial developments. The tragedy of the Tulip Crisis was that it was not rich merchants or the high nobility who lost their money, but ordinary citizens who gambled all their possessions on the rush to get rich quick. My series of images continued to evolve. 


First drafts of TULIP MANIA

BURNED_flower_einkesseln_v009_Master 2_j.webp

First drafts of TULIP MANIA

In 2017 I got in touch with 3 drone pilots:

Anders Andersson, Curtis Hilbun and Hans Elbers.

With their help, I took pictures of tulip fields.

We look down on the world from far above. The 3/4 perspective creates a strange effect: undistorted and unemotional, providing an overview.

The first view does not seem scary at all, but aesthetically very appealing. Coloured geometric surfaces create colourful patterns. But on closer inspection, details become visible: the colourful landscape is repeatedly immersed in white ash: Remnants of settings we think we know.

When I look at it, I am never quite sure myself what actually predominates: Criticism of the financial economy or sheer admiration of its beauty. Disgust and pleasure are often close together.



At the same time, I had the idea of exhibiting the digital images in a real greenhouse. Only this time, it was not the tulip plants that were illuminated with the warming light, but the most valuable goods of capitalism: the consumers themselves. 

The sound artist Bony Stoev developed a composition based on the money movements of his account, which was translated into a sound carpet and combined with the sounds of money counting machines.

During this time, more than 20 large-scale works were created. 

However, after 3 years of work and countless conversations with friends and gallery owners, who urged me to finally publish the series, I abandoned the development of the art series. Even after such a long time, I had not managed to create the feeling I perceived on the streets of Frankfurt in the paintings. 

It was to take almost 3 years before I became aware of this subject again. 

At the beginning of 2020, the world market collapsed again. This time for the familiar reasons of a pandemic. A by-product of the crisis-fighting policy was a flooding of the financial markets with fresh money from the central banks.

Then signs emerged that I remembered from my research in 2015. Trading volumes became faster. Alternative investment markets sprang up in no time.

With the triumph of the crypto market, NFTs emerged. The reason was simple: with the rise of Bitcoin and Ether, a lot of people had become rich in a very short time. They were now looking for other asset classes that emancipated them from the old financial market. NFTs became an ideological counter-movement of the elitist art market at this point.

But just as in the Tulip Crisis in 1604, it was not constitutional banking institutions that were involved, but thousands of small investors. At that time, everyone still shied away from using the word "speculative bubble". The euphoria was too great that despite the worldwide lockdown, the economy did not collapse. On the contrary: money seemed cheap. 

Stock markets and crypto platforms exploded. The pandemic seemed to have nothing to do with us.


Excerpt from the development of the destruction phase

In the mid-2020s, the tone in which NFTs were talked about changed. Like all people who love art, I observe slightly annoyed that the focus is moving away from the artwork itself. The focus was now only on maximising profits, not the art.

People mingled with the teckis and artist:ins who were only interested in the quick trade. When these people appeared, I felt the urge to build a mechanism into NFTs that would expose this very action - like a protective shield I could put over the artworks. This was the missing piece of the puzzle for the "Tulip mania" series: an automated process that forces the buyer to reflect on his own actions.


Enthusiastically, I presented the idea to a few auction houses. 

The conversations I had here were some of the strangest of my life. They reacted downright angrily to my approach. The background was that the auction houses made money from every resale of an NFT. In their eyes, I was undermining their business model. 

I was signalled that they would only sell positive and uncritical works. I stopped talking to all auction houses.


At that point, the phase of euphoria on the markets began.

The Handelsblatt wrote: "Brachially, certified and tradable digital objects have pushed open the door to a new world on the art market."


With $11.1 billion in sales for 2021 alone. That is almost as much as the entire global online art trade.

Speculative networks bought NFTs from each other to increase market values.  "Everydays - The First 5000 Days" by Mike Winkelmann was sold at auction by Christie's for 58 million euros. Everyone believes the boom will continue forever and prices could only rise. 

The social component also plays a central role: When everyone around you is making money from this dynamic, it takes a lot of cold blood not to be infected by the euphoria. 

In February 2022, share prices collapsed. 

NFTs like the "Bored Apes" suddenly lost 90% of their purchase value. The reason for the market collapse was not the NFTs themselves. The correction is complex and deeply intertwined with global events that mix with the pandemic, a war and a recession. 

At the time I am writing this, we seem to be heading into the next crypto winter.

The Tulip series of mine has taken all these events of the last 8 years to be born. I have learned that some art series take years to gain the depth that is important to myself.

One consolation was a documentary by Christo and Jean Claude that I saw on Lockdown: They showed that the red gates of Central Park took over 15 years to work on.


Is the NFT market now dead?

Now that the speculators have moved on from the NFT medium again, projects are showing up that fill this art with impressive content. Artists are emerging who are interested in playing with the medium, finding and expanding its boundaries beyond the quick buck.

Important and impressive projects can be seen on the second floor.


Today there is a tulip called "Dow Jones".

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