Günther Förg, Untitled, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 114 x 157 1/2”.

GÜNTHER FÖRG is no longer with us. I first met him in Stuttgart during the preparations for the exhibition “Europa 79,” which I helped to organize. He was a young, shy, rather quiet artist, and, after having looked at the exhibition space, he immediately proposed to do a wall painting. After the other curators and I agreed, he quickly and precisely moved toward its completion.

A friendship was born, which led to our unforgettable first trip to New York, where he introduced me to his heroes, above all Barnett Newman.

Günther showed me many new things. He opened my eyes to the architecture of Italian Rationalism. Both of us shared a fascination for Ezra Pound’s Cantos. He craved the light and color in Italy. His photographs of Casa Malaparte, which we visited with friends, were inspired by Jean-Luc Godard, whom he admired. And indeed, Munich, where Förg studied, was not far from Lake Como, Rome, or Capri. The gray, dull Germany of the 1970s depressed him. His legendary monochromatic paintings from his years at the academy can also be understood politically.

Günther had a strong impact in my gallery in Cologne. Besides showing his work in numerous major solo exhibitions, he created a permanent wall painting for the staircase and designed catalogues, furniture, as well as the stationery.

Artists such as Albert Oehlen, Martin Kippenberger, Werner Büttner, Georg Herold, and later Jeff Koons, as well as Christopher Wool, became friends with Günther and collected his work.

In his last retrospective, in 2011, at my gallery in Berlin, Günther showed an impressive selection of paintings and large-sized photographs. From this exhibition I remember most of all his very last painting from 2009. He over-painted a colorful dabbed piece, almost exclusively gray on gray, which reminds of his years at the academy. Gray paintings have emerged repeatedly in his work over the years, but this piece is particularly impressive in its calm and dignity. A masterpiece.

Without doubt, Günther Förg’s radicalness shook up the very idea of painting. At the age of sixty-one, one of the most generous and talented artists passed away. I am honored to have been allowed to accompany his career from the beginning.

Max Hetzler is an art dealer based in Berlin.