Sculptor born in Würzburg, Germany. He studied at the Akademie der Künste, Munich, 1946–52. During a stay in Paris in 1951, he began working on forms derived from African sculpture, which he began to collect. In the mid-1950s, he produced a group of sculptures under the general title, Cattle, which were influenced by the early sculptures of Ewald Mataré (1887–1965). In 1957, Koenig won a scholarship to study at the Villa Massimo, the German Academy at Rome, his work on the theme of the ‘Quadriga’ dating from this period. For the German pavilion of the 1958 Brussels World Fair, he created two sculptures in bronze, Golgotha and Maternitas. In the early 1960s, he received several major religious commissions, including a relief representing The Creation for the main door of Würzburg Cathedral. During the 1960s, he moved from stylised figurative work to abstract sculpture heavily laden with symbolism. Sculptures from these years include his stelae and caryatid forms which developed into the series entitled Flora and Mona; his Great Flora L stands outside the German Embassy, Chesham Place, London. In 1964, he began teaching at the Technische Universität, Munich. Towards the end of the 1960s, he was commissioned to design a sculpture for the World Trade Center, New York. Installed in 1971, The Sphere (‘Kugelkaryatide N.Y.’) was the only work of art on the site to survive the terrorist attack of 11 September 2001; the work was restored and installed in nearby Battery Park as a memorial to the victims. Koenig said: ‘It was a sculpture; now it’s a memorial. Now it has a different kind of beauty, one I never could have imagined. It has a life of its own – different from the one I gave it.’ He died, aged 92, at Landshut, Germany, in 2017. In the following year, a major retrospective of Koenig’s work was held at the Uffizi and the Boboli Gardens in Florence.
Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, p. 274; ‘Sculptor Fritz Koenig of WTC fame dies at 92’, 23 February 2017, Deutsche Welle; Oxford Art Online – Grove Art Online; Peggy Guggenheim Collection; Wikipedia.
Terry Cavanagh November 2022
Fritz Koenig at the Skulpturenmuseum in Hofberg Landshut on the occasion of the screening of Percy Adlon’s newly revised 1979 film, ‘Nebenbei hauptsächlich Rösser’on 15 October 2015. This film documents the first encounter between the director and Koenig, which was followed by a further four films about the life and work of the artist by director Percy Adlon with cameraman Pit Kochs. (photo: Peter Litvai, Landshut: CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)