Memories and Homages for Rene Wanner

Verena Wanner
I remember very well the first days of Renes poster collection when I was a child: he returned from Poland, his car filled to the top with rolls of posters. All family carried them to our living room, where he started to tell us the stories about how he found the posters. He also pointed out what he liked about the posters, and how to recognize a Starowjevski or other artists. The stories were also much about the people he met on his trips - many of them became good friends over the years.

At Christmas, he always created a small poster exhibition on the wall of our living room, like this we became part of his passion.

When I was older, we started to travel for posters together - this was a perfect combination of my passion for Eastern Europe and his for posters. My father was a very interesting travel companion - he approached people very openly, tried to communicate with his hands and his feet (and of course also with drawings into his black little notebook that he showed to people when words did not help no more). And he was successful, usually - if not I tried to complement with my Russian language knowledge. We never really planned our days, floated from one meeting to the next one. We were very tired in the evenings, full of impressions and stories, and often with heavy rolls of posters under the arms.

One trip went to Moscow, at a time when Lenin posters were still sold in book stores. Rene loved the clear language of old style sovjet posters. We had long lists of artists that we wanted to meet. The posters were a door-opener for a discussion not only about art, but also about their lives, their families, their thoughts about life.

Once we met an artist in Kharkov that had stopped to draw and paint, feeling desperate and hopeless. By visiting him and talking to him, he started to live again and to see the purpose of his art again. Out of thankfulness, he painted a portrait of myself and of Rene and gave them to us as a present.

We have also got the opportunity to talk to a poster designer in the Ukraine, who had lived through the Tchernobyl catastrophe. He had shown us his pictures from the reactor - they were taken so closely that the edges were burned from the radioactivity.

It was all thanks to Renes kind and open way to approach people that they involved us into their stories and made us feel part of them.

Many years later, when the posters already stacked up in our old childrens rooms, and when Rene also had rooms for the posters outside our house, he focused more on taking photographs from posters instead of owning the paper version itself. Sometimes I found myself going through these series of photos taken on his walks through foreign cities - they were like a personal diary of my dad, telling me about what he liked, what he had been impressed by and what he found worth to document.

I had been thinking of joining Rene on a trip to China - this will not happen any more now and I will have to stick with the memories I had the opportunity to collect over the years, there will not be any more poster trips with Rene.

Sad to have lost my dad so suddenly

Jianping, Fukuda, Alejandro, Anett, Rene
Jianping He
In the middle of the night, I suddenly woke up in my hotel room.
Opening my eyes, I caught a glimpse of the dawn light, even though the town was still fully illuminated.

An email from Verena suddenly shook me to my core.....: Rene has passed away...
All at once, deep mourning engulfed me. I had a physical collapse, as endless tears streamed down my face....

Sorrow arose from the bottom of my body to the top, from my legs, trembling and stiff.
Sorrow, this ruthless corrosive liquid, intensified my agony even more.

Rene, so many memories! Where should I even start?
Yesterday, your name was still in my emails, guest lists, caller IDs ..
Suddenly everything has changed. Your name will never again show up in my emails, guest lists, caller IDs..
Everything rushed back to me. Unable to react: I didn't know how to reply to Verena. What to wear on your funeral, what to say and how to deal with this sad new situation.

Rene, I still remember vividly how we met the first time, in the summer of 1999. I was lucky enough to get to know you, even though the Internet was not so prevalent.

Recalling the first time you came to China with me, we visited a bookstore and you were engrossed in a Chinese design book. Only later did I realize that you awkwardly held the book upside down.

Another time, we drove from Rheinfelden to Chaumont to attend an opening ceremony.
On the way, we had so much to talk about we even forgot to drink and eat. After spending 6 hours in total, we finally got there.

Warsaw is another place full of memories for both of us.
Once we joined a bunch of young designers in a night club, where it used to be a cotton mill. We drank a lot, and had such a good time there.
You held a camera asking people again and again: "Are you a designer?"
We've got so many shared memories to treasure. However, you have left all these to me, and I will no longer see you again.

12th July, midnight

René Grohnert
Als ich die Nachricht von Renés Tod erhielt, da war es wie im Film: "Ich habe doch erst vor ein paar Tagen eine Mail von ihm bekommen." Aber das war nur ein Moment, denn unsere Bekanntschaft rührte noch weit aus der Vorwendezeit. Irgendwann Mitte der 1980er Jahre tauchte da ein Schweizer im Ostberliner Museum für Deutsche Geschichte auf und wollte sich über Plakate unterhalten. Seit dem haben wir uns über Plakate unterhalten, mal persönlich, mal aus der Ferne, mal seltener, mal intensiver. Während ich versuchte immer Tiefer in die "Plakatologie" einzusteigen, praktizierte er seine eigene Idee davon. Basis seiner Ideen und Gedanken war zunächst das Sammeln von Plakat-Daten und -Informationen dann das von Bildern und schließlich von Plakaten selbst. Seine Kriterien blieben mir oft unklar, eines aber war sicher, er war glücklich damit - und wer kann das schon von sich behaupten. Wir haben uns in großen Abständen gesehen, das letzte Mal zu einer Ausstellungseröffnung im vergangenen Jahr. Er hatte die Kamera im Anschlag und war immer fragend unterwegs. Er schien losgelöst von der Idee irgendetwas darstellen zu müssen, oder nicht nach bestimmten Umständen fragen zu können - eine Freiheit, die er sich erarbeitet hatte zu nutzen wußte.

Die posterpage habe ich nahezu täglich aufgesucht, irgendetwas fand sich immer. Dabei waren seine Fotoberichte und Kommentare immer besonders, Offen auf der einen, voller Eigensinn auf der anderen Seite.

Unsere kurzen und intensiven Treffen habe ich immer genossen, irgendetwas blieb auch hier immer hängen, eine Idee, eine Sichtweise - hin und wieder auch ein Verriss der eigenen Ideen.

Wir haben uns so lange gekannt, er hat meine Kinder wachsen sehen, meine Familie gekannt, meinen Weg verfolgt und an Allem Anteil genommen. Distanz und Nähe waren in unserer Beziehung kein Gegensatz sondern so einfach und normal.

Es wird mir schwer fallen zu glauben, dass mein ferner naher Freund nicht mehr da ist, weder nah noch fern. Ich trauere für mich und bin mit der Familie. Ziehen Sie bitte Kraft aus dem Netzwerk jener, die René für sich entdeckt haben und ihn zu einem Teil von sich werden ließen und dies jetzt bekunden.

Von Herzen traurig

René Grohnert

Radiating Joy and Light
Oleg Veklenko about Rene Wanner

I have met Rene for the first time in the last century, in the 90ies, when he appeared unexpetedly in Kharkov, together with his daughter Verena. She was studying at one of the university of Kiev, spoke the language and did orient herself well in our world that was very unusual for western people. In this sense she was not only translator for her father, but she was a guide and stalker for him in the unknown world of Ukrainian posterists. I remember how the two of them came into my studio, amazed by the originals of the posters of the exhibition, painted with guache on hardboard. They asked many questions about Tchernobyl, where I happened to be in mai/june 86, the "hottest" months of the catastrophy. At the end of their visit, Rene detected some prints of sovjet political posters that were scattered everywhere, mainly to draft on their back, or as disposable tablecloth to cover the table spilled with color. These posters were printed on good white paper, cost very little and were sold in big amounts in special departments of bookstores. Rene selected a couple of copies and was incredibly happy. And I myself remained in turmoil and utter bewilderment as I even received 20 dollars from the collector from abroad for this wealth! These days, this was not little money.
Afterwards, my colleagues from Kiew, Moscow, St.Petersburg told me not once of this unusual swiss collector that had visited them in their studios as well. In the beginning of 2000, Rene was widely known amongst European designers as a friendly, curious person, equipped with unique encyclopedic knowhow about posters. I often discussed with him online about various questions on posters and designers and always received almost immediately extensive responses, tips or advice. Sometimes I met Rene in exhibitions in different countries, and each time we conversed about various topics, but of course we talked mainly about posters.
At some point we met coincidentally in the yearly poster exhibition in Chaumont, where I had been invited as member of the Jury. I was happy and asked Rene to join me for the banket of the guests and jury, that was about to start. He was embarrassed, started to find excuses: he would be tired, not dressed appropriately, wouldnt know anyone...I almost had to force him to come to the place with me. And there he was, in his humble grey cloak, an old sweater and his unpretentious camera around his neck - but immediately in the center of attention, receiving handshakes, smiles and hugs. If he found a second between the talks, he asked me from time to time: Do you know this person? And that one? Of course I didn't, and when I guessed someone, I would never in life approach the big stars and talk to them. Rene introduced me to everyone and told them about our Tchernobyl triennials. When we headed home, it was already late, I wanted to know which hotel he was in. Surprisingly, he gave the answer: I stay right here on the car park, I am sleeping in my own car. This unusual modesty, warmth, friendliness and readiness to help and support has always distinguished this smiling man.
In 2004, Rene invited Anna Shishkova (manager of the 4th block Triennial) and me to Switzerland to the "Basle weeks". We showed a poster exhibition, prepared for a meeting and discussions around Tshernobyl, and we were very worried about it. He met us at the airport. Smiling, he asked something and put our stuff carefully into his old Ford - in this minute it was clear to us that at the side of Rene Wanner, everything would turn out well for us. For the whole week, Rene took care of us, he organized exhibitions, meetings, excursions and drove us around in his beautiful country. I felt all time so much care and attention that I did not ever feel before or after this trip.
Once I had some discussions with Sergej Serov (the president of the Moscow Golden Bee Biennial) about members for the jury of the next 4th block Biennial. We remembered our swiss friend, and Sergej suggested: "Lets invite Wanner for the jury - he would be a excellent candidate!" I was a bit sceptical as he had never been in a jury of this rank, but I decided to write him a letter. Rene, modest, and naturally shy was hesitant and did not accept for a long time. We were persevering though, and at the end he finally agreed. And this is how Rene Wanner came to us in spring 2006 as a full member of the jury, together with famous designers: Sang-Soo Ahn (South korea), Phil Risbeck (USA), Laurance Madrelle (France), Subrata Bhowmick (India), Ruth Klotzel (Brazil), Yuri Surkov (Russia) and Vladimir Lesniak (Ukraine) Since then I remember his powerful presentation about the real life of a poster in the day to day urben room. Somehow he managed to find time to walk through the streets of the city, taking pictures of our miserable street posters and he included them in his presentation as concrete Kharkov examples. Afterwards, many fought to invite Rene to various juries of exhibitions and poster biennials.
We emailed a lot, but did not get a chance to see each other in person for some years, and when I finally met Rene again in 2014 at the Warsaw Biennial, I was surprised by his new look: the splendid white beard and the sparkling glance from behind his glasses turned him into a sociable Santa Claus as well as into a wise old hermit.
It was just after the demonstrations on Maidan in Kiew, and after the russian annexion of Crimea and the unfolding military events in Donbass. I had been invited to give a speech about the role of posters in the Maidan Demos. After my presentation, Rene came as the first one to me, shook my hand in excitement and uttered something that I understood as follows: we can keep talking on exhibitions about the impact of beautifully designed posters, but in critical situations of life, some words, printed with a printer on a crumpled piece of paper can really change the world!
I will remember this forever.

Since then he stays in my memory as a simple, wise and kind person radiating joy and light.

Oleg Veklenko
Oktober 2017

Eugeniusz Skorwider, Poland

Marlena Buczek Smith

Sonia&gabriel, Spain

Juan Madrid, Venezuela

Scopje 2012

Uwe Loesch, Germany

Mehdi Saeedi, USA

Mehdi Saeedi, USA

Scopje 2012

Javad Mirhosseini

Javad Mirhosseini

Javad Mirhosseini

Scopje 2012

Elzbieta Chojna, Poland

With Sergej Serov 2016

Poznan 2011

Scopje 2012

Hector Gonzalez

Benito Cabanas

Orhan Ardahanli

Leszek Zebrowski

Ryszard Kajzer

Scopje 2012

Tomoko Miyagawa

Amirhossein Rastegari, Iran

Niklaus Troxler met Rene last May in Chaumont

Adan Paredes Barrera - Poster Exhibition

Andrew Lewis

Christopher Scott

Elmer Sosa

Istvan Horkay

Kari Piippo

Luis Veiga

Mario Fuentes

Pekka Loiri

El Fantasma de Heredia (Anabella Salem & Gabriel Mateu)

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