The publication Paul Thek – The wonderful world that almost was is the record and complement of the retrospective exhibition of the American Artist Paul Thek, presented at Witte de With center for contemporary art in Rotterdam and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst in collaboration with the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona, and the MAC, galleries contemporaines des Musees de Marseilles, and the Kunsthalle Zürich/Museum Für Gegenwartskunst Zürich, Zurich. Like the exhibition, the book is dedicated to the Dutch artist Franz Deckwitz, Paul Thek’s friend and close collaborator.

Paul Thek’s process-oriented way of working–in which the unfinished was as important as the finished–and his ironic approach to the conventions of the established art world, are today more current than ever. In all of his work, Thek negotiated between the old and the new, between high and low culture. His work is striking because it appears that the lives of the artist and his collaborators absolutely depended on their art. It is therefore not surprising that Paul Thek dedicated his entire life to his art.

The unique and voluminous archive that Witte de With assembled on Paul Thek for three years before the exhibition, served as the foundation for both the exhibition and the book. Paul Thek–The wonderful world that almost was can be seen as a sequel to the retrospective exhibition of Hèlio Oiticica presented by Witte de With in 1992. Both projects greatly assist a more complete understanding of the history of contemporary art, because the oeuvres of Oiticica and Thek, though never obscure, have often been underestimated or generalized.