Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Sculptured Relief by Rolf Brem

by David B Smith

On a recent surf of the internet seeking items of curling interest I was quite surprised to see in a Swiss auction house's catalogue a modest sculptured relief of a modern curling scene. The relief was said to be made of 'Englischzement' and it was signed by the sculptor Rolf Brem.

It did not take long to ascertain that the piece had been modelled by one of Switzerland's most famous, popular, and prolific sculptors, whose long life had centred on the Swiss city of Lucerne. He had died in 2014.

There was lots of material by him on display on the net but as far as my researches went this was the only depiction of curling.

I therefore resorted to my old and faithful friend, Max Triet, who was until his retirement director of the Swiss Sport Museum in Basel, and with whom I had collaborated in putting on several historical exhibitions in Switzerland, including one in the old Olympic Museum in Lausanne, and one in the new.

He was very excited by my news and told me more about Brem than I really needed to know. He thought the 'guide price' was low for the artist but he said he would go to Zofingen, where the auction house was. When I protested about the cost he explained that he would use the Swiss equivalent of the Scottish bus pass and travel free by train.

On his return his excitement was unabated, but he was still of the view that the guide price was low and that I should not expect to buy it for even the top estimate. We discussed the price and he said he would attend the sale, and bid on my behalf if that seemed prudent.

He did, and I was very pleased at the result.

A few days later my pleasure was complete with the arrival in a very large but light box of the latest addition to my collection. When it emerged from its copious bubblewrapping I was exceedingly pleased – the more so because it also pleased Hazel, my wife.

The relief is 41cm by 15cm. I have been informed that 'English cement' (Englischzement) is a mixture of plaster, ground white marble and cement. The look of it is very like stone.

The composition is of a curler – right – who has thrown his stone - left – to where his colleagues and the house are shown.

It is always difficult to decide where a new work of art should be shown. We managed to place it in the dining room below a painting of an elderly man whose place above the mantelpiece was sacrosanct. The children would never forgive us for moving 'the Old Man'.

Images © David B Smith.