The older I get, the faster time seems to go by. The advantage of time just flying by, however, is the fast return of annual events such as the wonderful art fair NordArt. Every year, this fantastic art event transforms the northern German provincial town of Büdelsdorf for a couple of months into a vibrant and exciting international art mecca. So come on, join me on my train ride into the boonies, and let me show you how to visit NordArt 2023.
Büdelsdorf is a townlet on the outskirts of Rendsburg which isn’t exactly a bright lights big city place, either. Actually, Rendsburg is located in Germany’s Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein on the train route from Hamburg to Copenhagen. To this date, you find traces of the city’s historical function as the southern border fortress of the Danish Empire in the quite charming old town. Büdelsdorf is located north of Rendsburg and can be reached by walking in about 20 minutes. However, there are also public buses.
The iron foundry Carlshütte was founded in Büdelsdorf in 1827. It was the first industrial plant on the Jutland peninsula. This peninsula consists of the continental part of Denmark, most of the German Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein, and even a part of Hamburg.
While in 1850, the foundry had almost 500 employees, by 1965, the staff quintupled to over 2500. Obviously, the Carlshütte dominated the region’s economy for the longest time. Yet, in 1997, they had to file for bankruptcy and close the plant down.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure: As the iron foundry closed in 1997, Hans-Julius Ahlmann, Managing Partner of the internationally active ACO Group, acquired the grounds with its massive industrial halls and historic housing. He converted them into an outstanding venue for cultural projects. Hence, today, the Carlshütte is not only an impressive industrial monument. The industrial buildings and vast gardens also offer a distinctive setting for cultural events of all kinds.
I guess this explains how the provincial town of Büdelsdorf gained a venue where one of Europe’s most important art shows takes place every year.
Although the NordArt is by far not as famous as other European art shows such as the Documenta in Kassel let alone the Biennale di Arte in Venice, it has found its spot in the art scene and is an internationally acknowledged event.
The first NordArt took place back in 1999. There are three exhibition spaces on the grounds: The former factory building, the old carriage shed, and the spacious park. Over the years, most of the statues and installations in the sculpture park remained in their places. That’s understandable since they are mostly made of iron, stone, and marble. Hence, they are a bit heavy to be shuffled around on the garden’s 80,000 square meters.
The exhibitions at the coach house and the industrial hall, however, are showing a comprehensive selection of works by contemporary artists from all over the world. And although you won’t find always the works of some big art scene players here, you’ll get to see fresh, inspiring art.
Apart from the general curated exhibition, there are some featured extras: Every year, one particular country is the main focus and exhibits a choice of contemporary art. This tradition started in 2012 with contemporary art from China. Since then, very different countries such as Denmark, France, Mongolia, Ukraine, and Poland had the opportunity to put together a collection for their so-called country pavilion.
In 2023, the focus country is Türkiye which fueled my expectations. Ever since I visited contemporary art museums in Istanbul, I hold modern Turkish art in very high esteem.
I’d argue that contemporary Turkish artists are totally underrated, hence, I’m very happy the NordArt people brought at least 17 of them to Büdelsdorf. Among them is also Mahmut Aydın whom I remember from the show Proje4L that takes place at the Elgiz Museum in Istanbul. I’ve introduced this event in my post Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art – the best-hidden gem of Istanbul.
The Turkish pavilion at Carlshütte was curated by Kemal Tufan who is a famous sculptor himself.
As I said, Poland was also a focus country, namely in 2022. Already then, the works of Michał Jackowski, whose meaning is often only revealed at a second glance, caught my attention. And obviously not only mine, because this year, the artist was granted his own special exhibition space.
Under the name Antique Games, curator Prof. Jan Wiktor Sienkiewicz set Jackowski’s quirky sculptures, which are based on ancient Roman and Greek statues, coherently in a classic temple.
Michał Jackowski lives and works in Białystok where he was born in 1978. In 2003, he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. In his marble and bronze sculpture, he combines ancient statues with elements of modern consumerism and pop culture in a surprising and often provocative way.
Liu Ruo Wang
Like every year, Chinese art is widely represented also in 2023. One of the most noteworthy artists is Liu Ruo Wang.
Since his first appearance at the NordArt in 2016, visitors can admire his most outstanding installations consisting of cast iron sculptures like Wolves Coming, five giant troubadours singing an Ode to Art, 36 giant apes named Original Sin, or the crowd pacing around Mr. Pinocchio. In 2022, he won the prestigious NordArt Prize.
Liu Ruo Wang was born in the Jia Xian mountain area of the Chinese Shaanxi province in 1977. Interestingly, this was one of the first areas where the Catholic missionaries arrived in China. As a matter of fact, the name Ruo Wang is the Chinese equivalent of the name Saint John.
In 1996, Liu Ruo Wang began to study Fashion Design at the Xi’an Polytechnic University but dropped out just two years later to become a painter. Therefore, he attended the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing from 2002 to 2005.
Liu Ruo Wang’s work, which mostly consists of humongous sculptural installations, made him internationally famous. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen Wolves Coming for the first time at the Biennale di Arte in Venice back in 2015. Later, I met them again in Florence and finally here in Büdelsdorf.
To Be A Muse
A third featured art project is the series To Be A Muse by Lilya Corneli. Corneli was born in the Armenian capital Yerevan in 1978. She now lives in Hamburg.
It was a stay in Vienna that inspired her to interpret famous paintings and revive them by featuring models of flesh and blood. In the arrangement, she gets amazingly close to the original, yet, she replaces the historical costumes with modern garments and leaves room for an intriguing play with unexpected accessories. Howsoever, the artist transforms real people into much-admired muses.
It’s so much fun to discover from which painting Lilya Corneli took her inspiration. They are actually impressively well-composed. Nevertheless, if there should be a piece that you haven’t seen before, next to the display is a chart where you can compare Lilya’s version to the original.
Plan Your Visit
Opening Hours And Tickets
In 2023, the NordArt takes place from June 3 to October 8. It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday between 11 a. m. and 7 p. m.
The general admission is 18.50 €uros on weekdays and 21 €uros on weekends. There is also a ticket for 30 €uros which grants access on two consecutive days – no matter if you are visiting during the week or on a weekend. Also, there are discounts for students and families as well as season tickets so you better check out their website. There you can also buy your tickets online.
How to Get to Rendsburg and Büdelsdorf
The most convenient way to get to Rendsburg is by train. You get there for instance from Hamburg in less than 90 minutes, from Lübeck in 2 hours, and from Berlin – via Hamburg – in about 3,5 hours. Then, it’s a 20-minute walk from the train station to the Kunstwerk Carlshütte. Alternatively, you can also catch a bus.
Here’s a special tip for you Germany travellers: For about 25 €uros, you can travel an entire day by train within every federal state. However, you are only allowed to take regional trains, not IC or ICE. The best part is: each further person pays only 3 to 6 €uros. Up to 5 people can travel on one regional day ticket. The basic fare as well as the supplement per person vary from federal state to federal state.
Büdelsdorf is in Schleswig-Holstein, and the day ticket for one person is 29 €uros. Additional fellow travellers pay 5 €uros per person.
The Germany-Ticket for 49 €uro
Following the fantastic 9 €uro ticket that allowed nationwide travel for an entire month from June to August 2022, there now is the 49 €uro ticket. For good.
With the 49 €uros ticket, you can travel basically the entire country by regional trains. Those train numbers begin with RE, MET, etc. But remember, it is not valid in interregional trains such as the Intercity (IC) or Intercity-Express (ICE). However, you can also use regular buses, trams, subways, and suburban trains as well as regional express trains everywhere in Germany.
While the 49 €uro ticket is valid throughout the country, it is not linked to German citizenship. It can also be purchased by non-residents. Although it is an annual subscription, it can be canceled on a monthly basis.
So if you are planning on taking regional trains in Germany as well as intercity public transportation, the Germany Ticket might be your best option.
Just for the record: There is also a Flixbus going to Rendsburg, however, it’s not a valid alternative. It takes as long as the train but is less comfortable and just a couple of €uros cheaper.
Some Extra Tips
After having been to several NordArt editions, I’m happy to share some tips that will make your visit even smoother and more enjoyable:
Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes
There are a couple of reasons why you should refrain from wearing fancy heels. Firstly, you’ll probably have to walk around 20 minutes from the train station in Rendsburg to the venue. Although there is bus #10. However, as it’s not going very often, you’ll possibly even save time by walking.
Then, if you have time to explore the historic center of Rendsburg, you’ll have to walk on cobblestones. And finally, keep in mind that the venue is an old industrial building with time-worn uneven floors and simple iron stairs.
Bring some picnic and water
This is actually optional since there is a small charming café on the premises. However, It won’t surprise you that they are not exactly cheap. As a matter of fact, the prices aren’t even the main reason for bringing at least water with you.
The café is really very small and chances are that you won’t find a free spot to enjoy some refreshments. However, coming from Rendsburg, you’ll pass a supermarket where you can stock up on drinks’n’snacks.
The café Alte Meierei is open from Tuesday to Sunday from noon until 6 p. m. On weekends, there is also a cafeteria at the Alte Technikum open from 11 a. m. till 5 p. m.
Visit also the Cast Iron Art Museum
Across the street from the NordArt is the so-called Eisenkunstguss Museum, a museum showing a vast collection of cast iron works. After extensive remodeling, the museum was reopened in 2016. A media guide navigates visitors through the exhibition which has many interactive features as well as hands-on stations.
The Eisenkunstguss Museum opens from Tuesday to Sunday between noon and 5 p. m. You can visit it for free with your NordArt ticket. Otherwise, the general admission is 5 €uros.
Make Time for a Stroll Through Rendsburg and the Sculpture Park
Rendsburg is not that big, yet, a stroll through the center is quite enjoyable.
You’ll get to see lots of traditional North German architecture and if you still have capacities to relish more art, there is the serene Hans Heinemann Park with 26 intriguing sculptures from different art epochs.
The park was laid out in the 1950s and 1960s and is named after Hans Heinemann, a local painter, patron, and founder of the cultural association.
On this map, you get an idea of how to get to the NordArt and also of what else to see in Rendsburg. Clicking on the slider symbol at the top left or the full-screen icon at the top right will display the whole map including the legend.
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Disclaimer: NordArt granted me free entrance to write about this year’s edition. Howsoever, all opinions in this post are mine and were by no means influenced by my cooperation partner.