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By B. John Zavrel



 Kurt Arentz putting the finishing touches on the larger-than-life bronze portrait "PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH".


Kurt Arentz was born on May 29, 1934 in Germany. Today, the "presidential sculptor " is 60 years old. The birthday party given for him by his friends last May at a castle in Germany was attended by over 400 hundred friends and admirers of the artist.

Who is Kurt Arentz? Actually, I first met him during my first visit to Germany in October 1984. It was the year of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The next day after I arrived in Germany, I was invited by the President Richard von Weizsaecker to attend a special reception which he was giving to honor the German Olympic athletes, who had recently returned from the United States. I met there a number of the top German sportsmen--runners, boxers, jumpers, fencers, etc. among them also Ulrike Meyfarth. She was then called the "Golden girl," and was very popular in Germany, because at the Olympics in Los Angeles she won her second gold medal for high jump in Olympic competitions. (She won the first gold medal 8 years earlier -- a remarkable achievement for a sportsman to repeat such an achievement after such a long time).

A few days later I received a dinner invitation from Mr. Arentz. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that Ulrike Meyfarth was also invited. It turned out that Mr. Arentz just recently did her bronze portrait.

Kurt Arentz was at that time about 50 years old, and has been working as a sculptor only about 7 years. For many years he was a businessman--he had a successful butcher and fish store, and sold mostly to restaurants in the area. But at some point in his life he became interested in art. First he painted, and then he started to try his hand at sculpture. Since he was close to animals all his life, naturally he started with making sculptures of animals he was most familiar with: bulls and horses. After some time, he wished to know if his work is really any good, or not. He found a way to arrange a personal meeting with the sculptor Arno Breker, whom the famous French sculptor Aristide Maillol called the "Michelangelo of the 20th century." Breker was impressed by the work of the aspiring artist, and strongly encouraged him to continue to work as a sculptor.

In the few years since the meeting with Arno Breker and my visit to his home, Arentz has produced many sculptures, mostly in smaller size, of all kinds of animals. Bulls, horses, dogs, birds, boars, eagles, falcons, etc. But his bulls are perhaps the most impressive, and we have several of them in our collection.

Shortly before our meeting in 1984, Kurt Arentz became interested in making portraits in bronze, and did perhaps half a dozen of them so far, and the portrait of Ulrike Meyfarth was one of them.

Kurt Arentz is a great friend and admirer of America and the American people. He speaks a little English, and has been driving American cars for most of his life. It is no wonder that he became interested in promoting friendly relations between Germany and the United States through the medium of art.

He was commissioned by the Committe of German-American Friendship to create a bust of Ronald Reagan, who was then our president. It was on my next trip to Germany that I attended the unveiling of the portrait at an art exhibition in Bonn. Several years later I arranged a presentation of this bust to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Los Angeles. Kurt Arentz and his wife came from Germany for the presentation of the bust to President Reagan in his office, and we had a wonderful 45 minute visit with the President. After the presentation we took some time to travel with our friends through California, and also visited the remarkable art collection of the Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Since then Mr. Arentz has created many more sculptures and portraits. Among his more famous animal sculptures is the Ecological Eagle. A copy of it is in our art collection. The
International Committee Artists for Ecology has awarded one of these sculptures every year to a prominent personality who has made significant contributions to ecology and for bringing ecological concerns to the attention of the public. Among the recipients were Ronald Reagan, NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner, Ambassador Richard Burton, the German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the Prince of Wales, and George Bush.

In the summer of 1994 Kurt Arentz and his wife came again to the United States, this time on our invitation to attend the opening of the Museum of European Art. As a gesture of support of our Museum, Kurt Arentz created the bronze sculpture "Boss Rick" -- the boss of the buffalo family of the Buffalo ZOO. We visited the ZOO to show to Mr. Arentz the buffalos, and the director, Mr. Ortolani gave us a personal tour of the whole area. We also discussed a possibility of Kurt Arentz creating a large sculpture of the "Boss Rick" to be placed outside on the grounds of the Buffalo ZOO, and Mr. Ortolani was very interested in the idea.


At this time, Kurt Arentz has many new ideas and projects for the future. His present project is a larger, outside sculpture of a maple tree with a dove for the American owner of the A & P grocery store chain. So far, he has also created nearly 100 portraits of prominent European and American personalities from the fields of culture, politics, business. Among them are portraits of Herbert von Karajan, former German President Karl Carstens, sculptor Arno Breker, the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Ronald Reagan, former German President Richard von Weizsaecker, publisher Axel Springer, American musician Mstislav Rostropovich, George Bush, and many others.

Two books have been published about the works of this very talented artist, and a third one is now in preparation. We are very fortunate to have several of his sculptures in our collection.


Related articles:
The Sculptor Kurt Arentz, by Dr. Volker G. Probst
Bronze Bust for Ronald Reagan
George Bush: I am very honored and pleased


Copyright 1996 PROMETHEUS
Reprinted with permission

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