Great art in small places – Rocking the Ruhr bye:myself

Considering the fact that the Ruhr is still being treated as an orphan, despite its efforts and many fantastic venues, I’m going there quite often; to the big surprise of all my friends. But they don’t know what they are missing out!

Erwin Wurm: Kastenmann rosa/gelb bye:myself
Erwin Wurm: “Kastenmann rosa/gelb” (“Box Man pink/yellow”)

I’ve already explained in an earlier post the Ruhr’s past as a dull industrial area with lots of mining companies and iron and steel works. The good side of the dying industry is – though probably of little comfort to the miners who lost there jobs – that now there are numberless abandoned sites and buildings with hip industrial charm, and the marketing and culture people do a good job using and promoting them.

Right now there’s the “Ruhrtriennale” taking place, an art event promoting mainly performing arts at various sites – a little difficult to organize a visit from far. But I’ve been back to the Ruhr for the weekend, nevertheless, and it was absolutely worth it. Now I don’t think that anybody will cross the seven seas to come to Duisburg, Essen, or Oberhausen. But if you happen to be in Germany, let’s say in Cologne or even Frankfurt, a trip to this area is absolutely recommendable.


I’ve started the day in Duisburg, a quite unappealing place but home to two very nice galleries, the Lehmbruck Museum in the city center and the Küppersmühle.

Lehmbruck Museum

Wilhelm Lehmbruck, born in 1881 at Duisburg, was a pretty successful artist in his time and active in many European countries. However, he suffered from depressions and committed suicide at the age of 38.

Wilhelm Lehmbruck: Der Gestürzte bye:myself
Wilhelm Lehmbruck: “Der Gestürzte” (“The Overthrown”)

Besides the permanent exhibition of Lehmbruck’s sculptures the museum possesses a collection of masterpieces by Giacometti, Fontana, Yves Klein, Tinguely, and Niki de Saint Phalle, to mention just a few.

From the permanent collection: Small sculptures like this bust by Salvador Dalí…..

….as well as large installations like “War/Vietnam Piece” by Duane Hanson (front) and “Untitled (Two Windows)” by Jannis Kounellis (back)

The Lehmbruck also organizes interesting temporary exhibits like at this moment Austrian superstar Erwin Wurm (Wurm is also representing Austria at the 57. Biennal in Venice).

Welcome to Erwin Wurm’s surreal world!

At Duisburg, he’s showing a double feature, and while the exhibition at Küppersmühle ended this weekend, it still goes on at the Lehmbruck till October 29, 2017, so you have time to say hello to his fun men – especially the “Artist who swallowed the World”.

May I introduce you? This is the “Artist who swallowed the World”
Mimi being a one minute sculpture
Mimi’s claim to fame: being a “One Minute Sculpture”
at the Wurm-exhibition in Berlin in 2015.

His “One Minute Sculptures” are already a classic and shown at almost every Wurm-exhibition; probably also because they are a true hands-on exhibit since the public is invited to join the fun; and everybody does – eagerly.

New to me were his “Drinking Sculptures”, challenging the visitor to open a cabinet with a bottle of booze and some plastic cups inside – and you are welcome to get wasted (in case you care: it was 11.30 a . m. , so I was a party pooper and did not get a shot of vodka although the warden encouraged me a lot. Anyway, the wardens were super friendly and seemed to enjoy their job at this particular exhibition a lot and made my visit an even nicer one – thank you, gentlemen!).

A fun cupboard – to be opened with a trick (“Closet for Wols”). Your reward is a bottle of  some Schnaps.
On the wall a tasteful wallpaper with a Erwin Wurm pattern. I think I need to refurnish somewhen soon.
Erwin Wurm: Willem de Kooning Dresser bye:myself
In case you wonder: finally some art with a purpose and some clear instructions.

There is also an installation from 2017 on his home country Austria called “Vaterland” (“Fatherland”) and consisting of 55 mini mountains made from bronze that look like…turds, and 36 coffee-drawings. They are brown – because bronze is brown. And coffee is brown. And the extreme right wing’s color is… interpretation is certainly not that far fetched.

Brown is not a good color in Austria.

Düsseldorfer Straße 51
47051 Duisburg
Phone: + 49 – 203 – 283 26 30

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 12 p. m. to 5 p. m. (Saturday and Sunday from 11 a. m.)


Wurm’s iconic “One Minute Sculptures” are exhibited at the Küppersmühle, together with many other fun and quirky pieces. The flashiest one is certainly the grass green pullover he put on the walls – along 90 meters; Erwin Wurm enjoys a lot coating….things; and in contrast to this glaring green walls, the other pieces look even more flashy than they already are.

Erwin Wurm: Ohne Titel / Pullover bye:myself
The world’s best dressed wall: Erwin Wurm’s pullover – covering 90 meters in grass green,
 sleeves and round as well as turtle necks included.

Unfortunately the part at the Küppersmühle is, like I said, finished, but the building itself is already a piece of art and to be visited: a former grain mill in the inland port of Duisburg on a branch of the river Rhine. The industrial building was transformed according to a design by Herzon & de Meuron, the famous star architects from Basel/Switzerland that will be mention quite often on this blog.

However, also the Küppersmühle’s permanent collection shouldn’t be missed. On two floors there are some of the impressive pieces of German art by artists like Anselm Kiefer, Georg Baselitz, and Markus Lüpertz, all in there 70s now, thus informed and shaped by the trauma of German history and past (WWII) is strongly reflected in their art.

Anselm Kiefer: Die goldene Bulle bye:myself
Anselm Kiefer: “Die goldene Bulle” (“The Golden Bull”)
Markus Lüpertz: Kopf der Judith und Traum des Künstlers bye:myself
Markus Lüpertz: Sculptures “Kopf der Judith” (“Judith’s Head”) and painting “Traum des Künstlers” (“Artist’s Dream”)

MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst 
Innenhafen Duisburg
Philosophenweg 55
47051 Duisburg
Phone: + 49 – 203 – 30 19 48 11

The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a. m.  till 6 p. m. (Wednesday from 2 p. m.)


Although Oberhausen, another dullsville, is just a couple of miles from Duisburg, getting there was a drag since the trains don’t run very often and you have connection in surprisingly charmless places; i. e. you wait about 45 minutes for the train that takes you to the next destination in a blink of an eye – and there you wait again. They definitely should improve their schedules.

Slinky Springs to Fame

I did this trip for you, #tobiasrehberger: The German sculptor Tobias Rehberger, born in 1966, is famous for his installations that often serve a practical purpose. Besides other major exhibitions he participated in the EXPO 2000 at Hannover as well as in two Biennals in Venice, the 47th issue in 1997 and the 53rd in 2009 when he received the ‘Golden Lion’ for being the best artist. He got the prize for designing the decoration of the central pavilion’s cafeteria.
His similar design is found at the cafeteria of the Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, the city’s art gallery.

Tobias Rehberger: Slinky Springs to Fame
Tobias Rehberger: “Slinky Springs to Fame”
Due to its twisting and turning, a walk on the bridge allows many different perspectives.

Now in Oberhausen his fairground attraction-like bridge with the fairground attraction-like name “Slinky Springs to Fame” was finished in 2011. On 406 meters it winds in twists and turns over the Rhein-Herne-canal. The bridge honors its name by being a…..spring. In this spring with a diameter of 5 meters is a 2,5 meters wide concrete plank covered in a softish colored material of 16 different shades. This effect is especially…effectful at night when the “Slinky Springs to Fame” is illuminated.

View from the Slinky Springs on the Rhein-Herne-canal 

Ludwiggalerie┃Schloss Oberhausen

Coming from the Emscher island, the slinky springs didn’t lead me to fame, but to the Kaisergarten (the ‘Emperor Garden’) exit, where I found myself right in front of the classicistic Oberhausen castle. Built in the very early 1800s, it used to be home to a bunch of wealthy families and houses now different venues like the Ludwiggalerie as well as a restaurant and a bookstore and giftshop.

Schloss Oberhausen
Oberhausen castle.
It might not be suited for Cinderella, but it’s an enjoyable place just the same.

Currently the Gallery is presenting a huge Sam Shaw retrospective. Sam Shaw, born in 1912 in New York City, was mainly famous for his film stills, but this exhibition definitely proves that he was a master in other fields of photography, too.

Ludwiggalerie – ennobled by artist Thomas Baumgärtel who’s spraying a banana on walls of exquisite art venues
(and does some provocative art himself).

Ludwiggalerie┃Schloss Oberhausen 
Konrad-Adenauer-Allee 46
46049 Oberhausen
Phone: +49 – 208 – 412 49 28

The castle and the gallery are open from Tuesday to Sunday 11 a. m. to 6 p. m.


Folkwang Museum

I’m already a regular at Essen, and that’s on one hand because it’s so centrally located and on the other because it prides itself to have the wonderful Folkwang Museum.

Max Kratz: “Steile Lagerung” (“Steep Stratification”),
a sculpture in honor of the miners that brought Essen its wealth.

And neither this time was I disappointed – but you might, because today was the last day of the exhibitions that I ‘ve seen, but you can look out for them at another venue, and the Folkwang is preparing an exhibition on German TV- and movie megastar Alexander Kluge, that will certainly be as awesome as all that I ‘ve ever seen there.

Los Carpinteros: Yelmo
Los Carpinteros: “Yelmo”
This ‘helmet’ by Cuban superstars Los Carpinteros is a piece of art in itself….and a very fancy display for temporary
exhibitions, at this moment “Gefasste Leere” (“Bordered Emptyness”) on all sort of containers, many on loan from
the also very lovely Glasmuseum Hentrich in Düsseldorf.

Plus their wonderful permanent collection is always waiting….permanently and in addition this part is for free! The collection, that Karl Ernst Osthaus started in 1902 in Hagen (explicitly described in my earlier post) consists of paintings and sculptures starting in the period of German romanticism in the mid 1700 till today’s contemporary.

Permanent collection: The Blauer Reiter, expressionism from Munich, in this room and The Brücke, expressionism from Berlin, in the next room.

The special exhibits that I’ve seen the last weekend were

San Francisco 1967
Plakate im Summer of Love 

Do you really need a translation? Alright then: Placards in the Summer of Love.
And take a wild guess what they’ve exhibited….
It was interesting though not very new; I new that in Height Ashbury they had a good and relaxed time and as soon as it got a tad bit tensed, chop-chop, there were relaxing substances. And it was all about love – just like the title indicates.

Some visitors are not less decorated than the exhibits.

I have to admit that it struck me for the first time how much and far the designs – including the ornamentation and typefaces – were inspired mainly by the art nouveau epoch respectively the symbolism and the pre-Raphaelites, but there were even faces and traces from the renaissance included; practically re-renaissance.

Placards from the 1970s
Victor Moscoso for Chambers Brothers and Iron Butterfly (left – sampling a renaissance painting) and
Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse for Grateful Dead and Quicksilver adopting the esthetics of art nouveau.

Vom Nutzen der Angst / The Politics of Selection

A very different exhibition, i. e. installation spread over three rooms, mounted by German artist and art professor Peggy Buth (*1971 in Berlin).
In her really noteworthy installation she focuses on the social and cultural aspects of urbanism, dealing with communal development and economic interests.
Peggy Buth did her artistic research in Parisian suburbs (room #1) and the housing projects in Missouri (room #2).
Room #3 deals with the museum’s immediate surroundings, i. e. the development of Essen in view of the fact that the city fell into disrepute: The city was home to Krupp’s factories that durign WWI and WWII were highly involved in the war machineries manufacturing weapons and heavy military equipment also by abusing forced laborers from Eastern Europe.

Peggy Buth: Leute wie wir
Peggy Buth: “Leute wie wir” (“People like us”) – a three channel video screening in eight chapters.

Interestingly, in 2014 Peggy Buth was granted financial aid by the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach-Stiftung. The foundation’s name giver Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach was not only a leading figure in the dirty company’s history, he also became supporting member of the SS in 1931 – two years before the Nazis even came to power; definitely an early bird.

Since his only son renounced the inheritance, the capital went into the above mentioned foundation; and in 2014, Peggy Buth got finance aid to remind the art world of what a prick Alfried was.
Life can be pleasantly ironic.

Caution! Contaminated Context II

There’s another small special exhibition by Jorieke Tenbergen who’s an Dutch fashion designer, but she does surprising things to fabrics by printing them in wild patterns and ornaments coming from unexpected fields like construction work. At a first glance, they reminded me of African designs, but I agree with Christian Jendreiko who wrote in his laudatio that they also have the colorfulness and ornamentation of some of Jeff Koons’ pieces. Way to go, Jorieke!

Jorieke Tenbergen bye:myself
Fabric designed by Jorieke Tenbergen.

This exhibition is taking place as part of the 6 1/2 Wochen (6 1/2 weeks) series that introduces young artists. Tenbergen was born in 1993 – that is undoubtably young!

Museum Folkwang 
Museumsplatz 1
45128 Essen
Phone: +49 – 201 – 884 50 00

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Thursday and Friday to 8 p. m.)

Zeche Zollverein

Once in Essen, I took the chance to pay the Zeche Zollverein a visit – and what a great visit that was!

Today the site’s main entrance. On the guided tour I’ve learned that this was always the ‘ceremonial’ VIP entrance for
special visitors. The ordinary workers and miners came through another factory gate on the opposite side.

The Zeche Zollverein was for more than 130 years a colliery and has been a World Heritage Sight since 2001. Together with the adjacent former cokery there now is a fantastic park including many great things to see and to do.

Ruhr Museum

Firstly you can visit the informative exhibitions at the Ruhr Museum and learn about the region’s nature, history, culture and labour. A guided tour is highly recommended.

Red Dot Design Museum

You’ll get to see about 2,000 distinguished products from all over the world, and they organize special temporary exhibitions as well. The Red Dot Design Museum has subsidiaries in Singapore and Taipeh.

La Primavera

This is an accessible installation by German-born American artist Maria Nordman. If I give you a hint that the work’s effect functions with natural light, you might understand why it can be visited only from May to September. I don’t describe it further since knowing about the effect might spoil it for you. Go and see, it’s beautiful.

Truck Tracks Ruhr – The Compilation

So I got to see a teeny piece of the Ruhrtriennale after all: the super-fun audio-visual art project “Truck Tracks Ruhr”.

For one year a converted truck went criss cross the Ruhr area and took the audience, sitting in the vitrified hold, to different, mostly unspectacular places around the region. Thusly each one of these destinations became a stage or set, and the audio part came from one of 49 artists who had written an audio drama.

A mobile theater – driving the audience to the scene.
© Rainer Schlautmann/Urbane Künste Ruhr

Directors Ulrike Franke and Michael Loeken filmed all these 49 spectacles and assembled them very nicely. This video installation can be enjoyed till September 30 at the former cokery mixing plant.

End of a theatrical road trip: screening of the project’s compilation.
© Karsten Enderlein/Urbane Künste Ruhr

The Palace of Projects

At the old cokery’s salt yard, the creator of really unusual and noteworthy art Ilya Kabakov installed together with his wife Emilia an exhibition of 61 individual dummies of projects – definitely not for dummies!

Ilya Kabakov: The Palace of Projects
Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: The Palace of Projects

In a spiral, light construction the couple introduces 61 ideas how to improve life – for individuals, the society and the world alike.
The projects are assorted according to three central questions:

1. How can I improve myself?

Concentration in the closet
“Concentration in the Closet”
A secluded spot for people with a desire for serenity in a noisy and unruly environment

2. How can we improve the world?

“The Digging of Canals Throughout the Entire Country”
Digging collectively precise trenches brings people together in a mutual project.

3. How can projects be initiated and proceeded?

“A Box for Completing Projects”
Gosh, this is brilliant: I have so many ideas and unfinished projects.
Here they are in folders, planted in fertile soil to grow and bloom.
I find it makes totally sense since projects are like seeds; and I often don’t have the time and patience to
groom and water them

What struck me a lot was that although Russian born Kabakov has been living in the United States since 1988, many of the improvement ideas seem to derive from his former life in the Soviet Union where for instance individual space and privacy were scarce – hence the e. g. “Concentration in the Closet” where a person can escape from the hustle and bustle at the very common “kommunalka”, a communal flat. Or improving the world by collectively digging trenches as an mutual, unifying project; also a very socialist idea.
However, I wonder what sort of improvements an artist being socialized in a Western capitalist country would invent; this definitely goes out to you, Erwin Wurm!

Since sometimes I am a dummy, I actually thought that the Kabakovs had collected these ideas from real people living in the former Soviet Union (like the individual project descriptions pretend); but this only shows you how neatly they developed them and how authentic this art project appears.
But no way, these two smarty-pants invented all these – partly fun, partly a bit melancholic – ingenious ideas by themselves.

If for nothing else, just to see this sensational art project is worth the trip to the Zeche Zollverein.

This installation is open to the public from Friday to Sunday from 11 a. m. to 5 p. m.

And if you’re not at all into art?

Never mind, there is so much more to do: you can hike or bike the huge premises, visit some design stores, snack or dine in one of the cafés and diners, take a refreshing dip in a swimming pool set up in a container – and next year they will finally open the big ‘sun’ wheel.

Swimmingpool at the former cokery in a container
Take a close look: up the stairs is a sundeck and below is a industrial container making a – literally – cool swimming pool.
What a – metaphorically – cool idea!
The swimming pool is open to the public daily from 12 p. m. till 8 p. m. exclusively during the summer school holidays
in North Rhine-Westfalia.
Currywurst und Pommes at Zeche Zollverein
Sampling the guaranteed vitamine free Ruhr classic Currywurst und Pommes, sausage with curry ketchup and fries.
The probably much healthier green plant is not a side salad, but pure decoration.

One thing is for sure: All these people who spent their life slogging away in this industry, risking their health and even their life at this very place, certainly never imagined that one day people would come here on a Sunday with their family in tow to spend a lovely day out.

Sun Wheel at Zeche Zollverein
The next attraction, the so called ‘sun wheel’, will be turning from next year on.

Zeche Zollverein 
RUHR.VISITORCENTER Essen / Besucherzentrum Ruhr Areal A [Schacht XII]
Kohlenwäsche [A14]
Fritz-Schupp-Allee 14
45309 Essen
Phone: + 49 – 201 – 2 4 6 8 10 (the coolest phone number ¡ever!)

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