Kurt Schwitters 1887-1948
T00214 Opened by Customs
Collage, 13 x 10 (33 x 25)
Purchased from Ernst Schwitters through the Lord's Gallery (Knapping Fund) 1958
Prov: Ernst Schwitters, Lysaker
Exh: Kurt Schwitters 1887-1948, Lord's Gallery, London, October-November 1958 (86)
Repr: René Huyghe (ed.), Larousse Encyclopedia of Modern Art (London 1965), pl.1053
A Merz collage made in Norway, the rubbish materials including various kinds of wrapping paper and fragments of German and Norwegian newspapers; the title was suggested by a pair of German customs labels inscribed 'zollamtlich geöffnet', and stamped with the place and date 'Hannover 3.8.37'.
The artist's son Ernst Schwitters writes (letter of 10 May 1973) that this collage is No.559 in his oeuvre-catalogue of his father's work, with the title '(zollamtlich geöffnet)' and the date 1937-8.
'I am very wary of "inventing" titles, and if I do so, I always try to follow the practice of my father, and, to make quite sure that the title is not taken to be original, I place my title in brackets.
'Thus, (zollamtlich geöffnet) is, indeed, my title. It is based on the knowledge, that my father wanted certain parts of his Collages read and understood, intellectually, and he often made these parts the actual titles of his works. Usually, they were witty, ironical or even sarcastic. Therefore I felt justified in calling the Collage (zollamtlich geöffnet), a part of the picture my father obviously wanted read and thought about.'
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.676, reproduced p.676