Büdelsdorf Revisited – bye:myself at the NordArt 2018

Büdelsdorf revisited – since every year the NordArt is taking place in that forlorn suburb with the quirky name, also in 2018, I visited bye:myself.

NICHTS by Klaus Gündchen, made from stainless steel in 2011.
Apart from the annual changing exhibitions, some of the works – especially the sculptures in the gardens – stay for longer.
For instance this NICHTS-sign.
NICHTS was made by Klaus Gündchen from stainless steel in 2011.

As you already know from this post, the NordArt is a very nice, annual art event. Obviously, you cannot compare it to the Biennial in Venice.

Nevertheless, they show a great variety of international artists. The NordArt has been one of the largest exhibitions of contemporary art in Europe, after all.

What I actually love about the NordArt is the location: Büdelsdorf! Even for German-speaking people, this name is quirky and fun and sounds like someplace for rednecks in gumboots clomping over the fields checking if the potatoes are good to harvest yet.

Size Doesn’t Matter

Actually, Büdelsdorf – by the way, ‘Dorf’ means village, this already tells you a lot – is sort of a suburb of sort of a small town in Northern Germany, a bit over 100 kilometers from Hamburg. If you happen to go to Denmark by train, you might have a whistle-stop there. Otherwise, I’m afraid that people who live more than five miles away have never heard of it.

City sign Büdelsdorf an advertising the NordArt
Welcome to Büdelsdorf – home of international art….and international cuisine: Just note the ‘restaurant’ to the right.

So the fact that an art fair takes place on a regular basis at this suburb of a small town is quite hilarious. Of course, there is a story to it:

In 1827, the foundation of the iron foundry Carlshütte was the first industrial plant of the duchies Schleswig and Holstein; today the federal country of Schleswig-Holstein.

After the long trip out here and an extended visit, one can enjoy a snack or some homemade pastry at the cozy Alte Meierei, the Old Dairy.

It was finally closed down in 1997. Eventually, Mr. Hans-Julius Ahlmann, an associate at the globally operating ACO group, bought the huge premises with the foundries, and the historic living and management quarters.

He initiated the Kunstwerk – artwork – Carlshütte where now concerts, lectures, film screenings, theater plays, and, obviously, exhibitions are taking place.

The NordArt

Since 1999, every summer the NordArt takes place and became one of the largest European shows of contemporary art.

Casey McKee Irrational Exuberance
This artist has been a great discovery at this year’s NordArt: Casey McKee comes from Phoenix/Arizona, but is living and working in Berlin. I really like the impression of his photo-based paintings and hope to get to see more of his work.

Every year, there is an open call. 3,000 artists from 105 countries from all over the world applied for the NordArt 2018.

Another painter that impressed me quite a lot is German Petra Sabine Anders. A bit in the style and tradition of Lucian Freud, the characters she’s depicting do certainly not meet our ideal of beauty anymore, but their appearance seems to tell fascinating stories; Anders insinuates this also in her titles: The Dancer (left) and And in Greifswald He Played the Just (right)

The jury has chosen 200 artists that now have the chance to show their paintings, photographs, videos, installations, and sculptures at….Büdelsdorf; it doesn’t get old.

Now, this is totally bizarre: At first glance a normal collection of butterflies,….
….but as you take a closer look, you see that it’s all heavy military equipment such as submarines, helicopters, and tanks; upside down and mirrored.
Rotem Ritov, an artist from Israel, not only made these ‘critters’, she also classified and labeled them accordingly.
Rotem Ritov Monarch Migration 

Happy Anniversary

If you think, wait a minute, isn’t this year as special on?, you are absolutely right: The NordArt celebrates its 20th anniversary. I personally hope that there are many more to come.

Gilles T. Lacombe Everything Must Go
Monsieur Lacombe always showed some pretty installations, but the one he’s presenting us this year might be the most disturbing one so far. I don’t know, somehow it’s the year of creepy over there in….Büdelsdorf.
  Gilles T. Lacombe Everything Must Go  - Detail
Gilles T. Lacombe Everything Must Go – Detail
Finally something not that disturbing, however not shallow: Five gigantic pens by Kemal Tufan from Turkey.
Pen With Books, Pen With Poem, Pen With Gasmasks, and Pen With Reading Glasses.
If you know what the last one is made of, please drop me an info.
Although Kemal Tufan has been another good discovery, it’s not really surprising. On my travels to Turkey, I’ve seen so much fresh and daring contemporary art that my expectations regarding Turkish artists got very high.

Update: Beginning of August 2018, the NordArt released a very informative and inspiring video on the making of this mega event.

The Country Focus

The NordArt isn’t just a random exhibition. They have a very elaborated and inspiring concept.

Apart from the ‘regular’ show, every year, they put the focus on a particular country.

This year’s Country Focus is on the Czech Republic.

František Matoušek aka Francis de Nim Františka.
Painting his hyper-realistic portraits on torn denim gives them an unexpected appearance.

There are many just nationally known participants. However, there are also some artists that acclaimed international reputation such as Michal Gabriel and, of course, Prague’s enfant terrible David Černý.

Michal Gabriel Eye To Eye
Michal Gabriel Eye To Eye
Michal Gabriel Birth of Venus
Michal Gabriel Birth of Venus

The Sculpture Garden

However, Czech artists are widely represented at the Kunstwerk Carlshütte, anyway. Besides the old factory buildings, there is a huge garden full of truly outstanding sculptures and installations. Many of those are made by Czech sculptors.

Permanent exhibition of sculptures at the very spacious gardens: Jiří Štaněk Divan

Many of these masterpieces are at Büdelsdorf for good – although some ogres seem to shuffle them around a bit between summers.

In 2016, Liu Ruo Wang’s iconic work Original Sin 2011 – 2013 was displayed as one of the centerpieces on the big lawn of the Carlshütte’s park.
In 2017, Ruo Wang’s ape-men were looking up into the sky at the bus stop in front of the Carlshütte’s main entrance. I wonder how they put these iron cast sculptures there – assuming that they did not walk across the street by themselves.
Since then, they are to be found in a different spot every year.

By the way, I really love to see some stuff from the previous year again along with all the new art they gather.

The Focus Artist

Besides the Country Focus, there is also a Focus Artist. And by pure incident, in 2018, it happened to be a Czech sculptor, too.

Czechs are very big at the NordArt, obviously.

Also, in 2017, the Focus Artist was Czech, namely, enfant terrible David Černý.

David Černý’s self-portrait Černý from the series FACES.
This cool series was part of the 2017’s issue of the NordArt.

Anyway, 2018’s Focus Artist is the sculptor Jan Koblasa who sadly passed away the year before.

While at the special exhibition in Jan Koblasa’s honor only his wooden work is being shown, in the garden, there is a permanent iron cast exhibit called Wailing Wall 

The Kunstwerk Carlshütte honors this artist who was highly involved in the NordArt’s conceptualization, organization, and activities.

Lying in state: Lenin, Mao, Hitler, Stalin.
Jan Koblasa: The Demons of the 20th Century
Lying in state: Lenin, Mao, Hitler, Stalin.
Jan Koblasa: The Demons of the 20th Century


Jan Koblasa and his unique form of sculpture – raw and at the same time very tender – will be dearly missed.

In the front La Traviata II, in the back Adam and Eve with the Snake
In the front La Traviata II, in the back Adam and Eve with the Snake

The Chinese Connection

Another recurring segment is the presentation of Chinese artists. For years, it has been organized for years in cooperation with the Chinese embassy and some Chinese cultural institutions.

This year, however, the Chinese participants are presenting rather…quirky to creepy artwork – especially XIANG Jing’s sculptures are pretty disturbing.

It’s not because of the nudity, it’s the style that makes this arrangement eerie.
 XIANG Jing Are A Hundred Playing You? Or Only One? (Series Naked Beyond Skin)
But also LIU Fei’s painting series Women & Guns is not particularly dainty (this one is No. 29).
Yet another jolly bunch of ladies, depicted by LIU Fei Women & Guns No. 30

What to Know When Visiting the NordArt

If you would like to visit this outstanding show next summer and need more information, you’ll get all the relevant info here.

If you like the idea of the NordArt, you might wanna check out last year’s post on the NordArt 2017.

How to Get to Büdelsdorf

You get to Rendsburg by train from Hamburg in less than 90 minutes, from Berlin in about 3,5 hours (via Hamburg). From the train station it’s a 15 minutes walk to the Kunstwerk Carlshütte.

Hamburg train station with regional trains taking you to the NordArt 2017 in Büdelsdorf.
Regional trains that you can ride all day long with just one single ticket.

Here’s a special tip for you Germany-travellers: For about 25 Euro you can travel an entire day by train within every federal country. However, you can only take regional trains, not IC or ICE. The best part is: each further person pays only 4 Euro, up to 5 persons can travel on one regional day ticket.

Büdelsdorf is in Schleswig-Holstein, and the day ticket for one person costs 28 Euro. The city-state of Hamburg is included.

In this post, you’ll find everything you need to know before – and during – visiting Germany.

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11 Replies to “Büdelsdorf Revisited – bye:myself at the NordArt 2018”

  1. I was about to ask where Büdelsdorf was close to before I read Hamburg. And you're right…the name sounds just like rednecks in gumboots clomping around! LOL! Um, Xiang Jing's sculptures are quite creepy and disturbing!

  2. OOOH we would love this! The artwork is evocative and emotive. You must have taken a million photos trying to capture the feeling from walking around it. If we lived near by we would have to visit this every year to see the new works. Perhaps the time will line up one day!

    Thanks for sharing. Keep travel blogging. Adventure is better shared with friends!

    1. Yeah well, too near by is probably not that advisable – the area is pretty…rural, to say the least 😉

  3. Many of these towns have lovely areas and art scene that are worth a visit. These exhibitions are rather modern, but definitely eye-catching. Nice stops as part of a city sightseeing tour!

  4. I really appreciate how they repurposed the foundry buildings and grounds to house art now! I have a love/hate relationship with contemporary art – I either really, really like the piece or really, really don't and there's rarely anything in between – so it makes viewing it an interesting experience. I think this would be incredibly interesting to see because there are so many pieces – even from your photos, I can see there are things I'd like, even if there are others I'd pass on.

  5. Wow some of this art looks amazing! I am not usually into art too much but I thought some of these pieces were pretty cool 🙂 Ruo Wang's Ape Men is my favourite.

  6. I LOVE communities such as this, ones that otherwise might not even register as more than a blip on a tourist's radar, that embrace art in such a dynamic and dramatic fashion. NordArt sounds like an artist's dream — a place to exhibit, experiment, get noticed. And you are right … know the area around Hamburg and so many of the communities there is not much there there … places to live, not to visit. Büdelsdorf has certainly made a name for itself with NordArt. Now I have to visit.

  7. Büdelsdorf sounds like a small sleepy place but with a difference. It is teeming with art. The history of how the place has emerged on the art map is so fascinating. The contemporary art in the NordArt looks so intriguing and futuristic and the imagination of the artists of the world seem to find expression here.

  8. All the artwork on display here is so interesting and intriguing. I think I'm most fascinated by the collection of military equipment. I, too, thought they are a perfectly curated collection of butterflies except that they are not. I wonder what message the artist is trying to convey through that collection.

    -Mohana

  9. The art event there looks pretty amazing. I know my daughter would love to go. I love artistic conceptions of life and deeper meaning.

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