The portraits of all ten previous presidents of the Federal Republic of Germany were commissioned by Gauck’s immediate predecessor Christian Wulff, before he resigned ignominiously earlier this year.
The paintings were unveiled in September and originally greeted visitors in the gallery near the presidential palace’s main entrance, but have now been moved to an anteroom, news magazine Focus reported on Monday.
Several visitors reportedly complained about the pictures, including Christina Rau, widow of former President Johannes Rau, who did not think much of the painting of her late husband. Some reportedly scorned the brightly-coloured works as “President cartoons.”
Prominent art collector Peter Raue also complained about the pictures, telling the Express newspaper that they were “unacceptable,” and that he had told Gauck so at a recent social event. “The pictures are oppressive and hideous,” he told Bild newspaper.
“The pictures caused a lot of discussion,” a presidential spokesman confirmed. “And criticism did keep coming up.”
But the decision to move them has angered the artist, Berlin-based Volker Henze. “The pictures were painted for the palace gallery, not a corridor,” the 62-year-old artist told the Bild. “I’m not going to take this.”
Henze, who was paid €110,000 for his work, said he had wanted to “show the human beings behind the office. Maybe that challenges some viewers too much.”
Speaking to the Express, the exasperated artist added, “They wanted Henze, they got Henze – and then they can’t cope with him.”