Ingalls Library Acquires Rare Complete Run of 1960’s German Avant-Garde Periodical, SPUR.

Submitted by Jason Schafer on


Gruppe SPUR was an influential Munich-based artist collective known primarily for its association with the Situationist International movement of the early 1960’s. Between 1960 and 1961, the group published a now rare seven-issue periodical called SPUR. Filled with passages addressing the plight of the artist in mass culture, the publication contains experimental typography and imagery throughout, including cartoons, montages, photography and original lithographs in black and white and color. SPUR was intended to promote the cutting edge of the European avant-garde and the short-lived series had an important influence on the development of contemporary art in Europe, particularly in Germany.

Recently, the Ingalls Library acquired a full run of SPUR, one of only 270 copies. Now housed in the library’s collection of rare materials, SPUR provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of these provocative and controversial collaborators.

Gruppe SPUR was founded in January 1958 by three painters, Heimrad Prem, Helmut Strum, and Hans Per Zimmer along with sculptor, Lothar Fischer. Spur, the German word for “trace” or “trail” was chosen because of the group’s desire to link back to certain pre-World War II German artistic movements in an attempt to investigate the meaning of artistic practice after the atrocities of the war. Gruppe SPUR sought self-realization through membership in an artistic community in which the individual had “unlimited freedoms” and was granted opportunities to oppose what was viewed as stifling conformity in post-war Germany and to counter the commodification of the avant-garde of the past.  Constantly playing with the inherent contradictions between the self-sufficient individual operating within a group dynamic, Gruppe SPUR viewed itself as a “community of individuals.”

In 1958, members of the group became acquainted with Asgar Jorn, a founding member of the Situationist International (SI), which itself was founded one year earlier. Jorn encouraged members of the Gruppe SPUR to engage in acts of social provocation and to create manifestos. Actions such as the Gruppe SPUR members throwing copies of their first manifesto from the tower of St. Peter’s Church in Munich were the result of Jorn’s influence.

The Situationists took an interest in the work of Gruppe SPUR, and by 1960 the collective became members of SI, with the approval of SI’s informal leader and social theorist, Guy Debord. Gruppe SPUR comprised the majority of SI’s German contingent until it was expelled from SI in 1962 over ideological differences.

SPUR’s publication was a collaborative effort among Gruppe Spur’s members, and proved inflammatory in Germany. In 1962, several members of Gruppe SPUR spent time in jail because of it. At issue was the magazine’s mockery of the Pope and the Virgin Mary along with its inclusion of so-called pornographic collages. The crackdown on the group’s publication by the German government was met with outrage from artists inside and outside Munich, and ultimately served to boost the group’s notoriety.

Below is some sample imagery from the library’s copy of SPUR—relatively tame by modern standards.

Rare materials can be viewed in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room by appointment.