BASEL and the Rehberger-Trail – time to wonder, time to wander

Visiting Basel, you’re not only seeing Switzerland’s third-largest city – after Zurich and Geneva. You also get to know lots of great art venues. And if you hike the Rehberger Trail, a route decorated with sculptures by German artist Tobias Rehberger, you can even cross the border to Germany walking.

Basel along the river Rhine.
Cozy little Basel in the heart of Europe. There are a couple of art venues and many interesting buildings and places along the river Rhein.
(Photo: © Basel Tourismus)

That’s one of the things I absolutely love about Basel: It is located in the tri-border area of Switzerland, Germany, and France. Three totally different countries getting connected in harmony.

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We’ll Always Have Büdelsdorf – bye:myself at the NordArt 2017

We’ll Always Have Büdelsdorf – since every year, hence, also in 2017, the NordArt is taking place in this forlorn suburb with the quirky name.

City sign Büdelsorf and a sign advertising for the NordArt2017
Welcome to the town where one of Europe’s largest art fairs is taking place; I kid you not.

Don’t judge an art event by its location: The annual NordArt is one of Europe’s biggest exhibitions of contemporary art.

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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.

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FRANKFURT – city of stark contrasts

For decades Frankfurt had a very bad reputation – especially in the rest of Germany: ill famed for sex and crime in contrast to cold, charmless facades of skyscrapers housing scrupulous banks overtowering a sinister sex and crime scene at the adjacent Bahnhofsviertel, the neighborhood around the main station.

Frankfurt Skyline - bye:myself
This is Frankfurt….
(ⓒ #visitfrankfurt, Photo: Holger Ullmann)
Römerberg - bye:myself
….and this is Frankfurt, too.
(ⓒ #visitfrankfurt, Photo: Holger Ullmann)

Therefore the first and for you travellers most important contrast I’d like to point out is the one between Frankfurt’s bad reputation and the reality.

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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.

DUISBURG

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…..my interpretation is certainly not that far fetched.

“Vaterland”
Brown is not a good color in Austria.

LehmbruckMuseum 
Düsseldorfer Straße 51
47051 Duisburg
Phone: + 49 – 203 – 283 26 30
Email: info@lehmbruckmuseum.de

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

Küppersmühle

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
Email: office@museum-kueppersmuehle.de

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

OBERHAUSEN

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.

Rhein-Herne-Canal
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
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
Email: ludwiggalerie@oberhausen.de


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

ESSEN

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
Email: info@museum-folkwang.essen.de

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!)
Email: RUHR.VISITORCENTER@zollverein.de

Great Art in Small Places – bye:myself at the Çanakkale Art Walk in Osnabrück

On the road again – last weekend to Osnabrück, Münster, and Marl. Saturday started with the Çanakkale Art Walk in Osnabrück.

byemyselftravels
Halil Altındere’s “Köfte Airlines”-Billboard stands in front of the Villa Schikkel and was introduced to the public at the Berlin Biennal in 2016 – and reflects of course on the handling of the refugee crises.

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on tour at the rhine’n’ruhr

Thinking of Germany – or almost any country for that matter – forget about the big cities like Berlin, Hamburg, or Frankfurt (Munich is a big exception because it’s in very conservative Bavaria and known for some of the biggest German clichés like beer and the October fest). The real Germany – and almost every country for that matter – happens in middle sized, middle class towns. And the Rhine-Ruhr area prides itself for having tons of them – all easily accessible within minutes by public transport.

Coming by train to Cologne, the visitor is greeted by the cathedral.

You can get by train from Dortmund (600,390 inhabitants) to Bochum (371,097 inhabitants) in 10 minutes, in ten more minutes the train gets you from there to Essen (589.484 inhabitants). Here you trespass into the Rhineland getting from Essen to Düsseldorf in 25 minutes and from there to Cologne in another 25. Especially Chinese people will probably laugh at what we call ‘cities’. Anyway, for us these are cities, and although none of them is a raving beauty and populated rather by lower middle class to working class folks, they are by far not as dreary as compatible industrial zones in other countries. As a matter of fact, the outlay and proximity bears potential. For instance in 2015, seven cities in the Ruhr area plus Düsseldorf hosted an ambitious art project called “China 8”: At nine venues in these eight cities where exhibited about 500 artworks of 120 Chinese contemporary artists. There was a shuttle bus that shuttled you between Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Gelsenkirchen, Recklinghausen, Marl, and Hagen. Since the bus shuttled only every two hours, I had to do many of the passages by public transport and therefore had to skip one. Every city chose a main focus such as painting, sculpture, photography etc. Since at Gelsenkirchen the focus was on ink drawings that interested me least, this was the only city I skipped.
But anyway, I’ve made it to seven cities in two day, and you get the point – and see the potential.

Since the “China 8” I see a single work or a small exhibition of some of the artists who participated in the event every time I’m in the area. It’s nice that the cooperation proved to be so lasting.

One of the most fun works at the “China 8”: “1st class” by Xu Bin, exhibited at the Lehmbruck Museum.
A tiger fur made of 500,000 cigarettes.

I presume if you are not German and did fight neither in WWI nor in WWII, you’ve never heard of Essen. Why I mention the world wars? Because Essen was home to Krupp’s factories that were highly involved in the war machineries manufacturing weapons and heavy military equipment.

But steel industry was not new to this area. There were times when Krupp was Europe’s second largest enterprise. During the European industrialization in the 18th century, mining companies and iron and steel works were in full bloom – making few rich and many sick: the lignite dust turned laundry and their owner’s lungs pitch black.

Former colliery “Zeche Zollverein”, today on the Unesco world heritage list, hosting museums and offering interesting tours into the Ruhr’s past.

Some of the people who got actually rich from ruining environment and health of others was the family of Karl Ernst Osthaus (1874 – 1921). They were bankers and industrialists and benefitted from the industrial boom in this area. Their sophisticated son Karl Ernst was one of Germany’s most important art patrons and collectors of the early 20th century. Although politically rather close to conservative, nationalist movements, in the field of the arts Osthaus was fairly open and progressive, following the reformation initiatives “Hagener Impuls”, “Folkwang Konzept”, and “Deutscher Werkbund”, innovative art transforming movements similar to the “Bauhaus”, probably the most famous among these projects.

At the turn of the century at the behest of Osthaus, a museum was built in Hagen – at that time under the name of “Folkwang Museum”; today it’s called the Osthaus Museum Hagen, and although Hagen is maybe the most charmless city I’ve ever seen, this museum houses first-rate artwork and organizes world-class exhibitions.

Around these treasures of the permanent collection
(in the front a stuatue by Anselm Kiefer, in the back the “The fountain with kneeling youths” by Georg Minne),
the Osthaus Hagen organizes impressive world-class exhibitions…
…like “50 years of hyper realism” in 2016
(Bernardo Torrens “Alli te espero”)

After Osthaus died, the museum association decided to buy his exquisite art collection for the newly installed Folkwang Museum in Essen. Since then this museum is one of the most important museums for classical modernism, contemporary, and modern art in Germany.

And this is where I’ve spent this afternoon after first having visited Duisburg, another dull city in the Ruhr area, but home to the Lehmbruck Museum, a venue dedicated to Wilhelm Lehmbruck’s oeuvre of sculptures. The permanent collection includes objects of many important artists such as Salvador Dalí, Niki de Saint Phalle, Jean Tinguely, Duane Hanson, Anish Kapoor, Kiki Smith and many more, and they are hosting temporary exhibitions as well. The museum is located in the heart of the Immanuel Kant Park and surrounded by 40 sculptures of artists of international renown such as Henry Moore, Meret Oppenheim, and Hans-Peter Feldmann – and many local drunks and junkies.

Meret Oppenheim: “Der grüne Zuschauer”

I’ve been here before (for the above mentioned “China 8”) and did come back for the exhibition “Life Size” by Czech-Canadian artist Jana Sterbak. Sterbak recently came to fame when Lady Gaga adapted her dress made of raw meat called “Vanitas: Flesh dress for an albino anorectic”.

Literally the way of all flesh: Jana Sterbak makes a new edition of the meat dress for every single of her performances. The props are rotting… 
The vegetarian version of art: “Bread Bed”

Another interesting art venue in Duisburg is the Küppersmühle, a former grain mill in the inland port of Duisburg. No less than famous Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron designed the museum’s interior. The permanent collection, shown on the two upper floors, presents German contemporary artists – many from the area – such as K. O. Götz, A. R. Penck, Markus Lüpertz and many more.

One of many large size works by Anselm Kiefer: “Die goldene Bulle”
Here is a philosophic question: When Günther Uecker hammers a nail in to hang one of his nail canvasses, is this nail just a nail, or is it art, too?

A ten minutes train ride took me then to Essen and the Folkwang Museum – not to be missed: special exhibit of germanübermegastarpainter, the one and only Gerhard Richter.

It was a long process: depicting 48 small size photos on canvas, the next step was to put digital prints of the paintings between acrylic glass and alu-dibond. 
You have to take a very close look to realize that these are carpets woven according to Richter’s paintings.

Sunday was supposed to be Cologne-Day – catholic city with world’s third highest church building. But first – still at Essen – I needed to rush into the protestants’ church Kreuzeskirche to see the colorful, fun windows by James Rizzi (also one of the first artists whose work struck me and lead me into the arts; unforgotten his record covers for the band Tom Tom Club). Although Rizzi’s designs are found on many objects, these are his only church windows in the entire world.

The catholics at Cologne have their own artist’s window at the cathedral, created by Gerhard Richter, but I have an appointment with his artwork at the inevitable Museum Ludwig next door.

Conveniently located next to each other: Father Rhine, Cologne Cathedral, the Romano-Germanic Museum, and the Museum Ludwig.

About thirty years ago it was this museum that hooked me to art. Especially the series of hyper realistic black and white portraits of 48 famous men created for the Venice Biennale in 1972 by the very Richter sucked me in and since then I’ve never found the way out of artsy wonderland.
So therefore it’s always nice and a bit of a sentimental journey – like visiting your old high school – coming back to this museum that was founded in 1976 when Peter and Irene Ludwig donated 350 artworks, mainly Pop Art.

The museum is also home to another one of my favorite paintings, “The Virgin Chastising the Christ Child in Front of Three Witnesses” by Max Ernst. I love this image because it shows the holy family in a refreshing realistic way. I’m absolute sure that Baby Jesus had his terrible moments as a toddler and gave his mom Virgin Mary a hard time and got on her nerves from time to time so she had it and spanked him. I’m a mother, I can relate to her; so this painting brings me closer to the holy family than any Christmas story ever did.

The protest letters against this painting are filling rows of folders.

The main reason for this visit was – again – a temporary exhibition of Gerhard Richter that ended the next day. The primary focus was on 26 of his late, abstract canvasses, and I don’t fancy them as much. But fortunately the Ludwig is in possession of many of his older work (like the sensational 48 portraits – and here were the originals, i. e. the canvasses instead of digital reproductions) that I enjoyed a lot.

Posing in front of a mirror shielded by a dozen staggered glass panes, I created my very own blurry Gerhard Richter image.

However, another special exhibition on Otto Freundlich titled “Cosmic Communism” is interesting and absolutely worth the visit, and it was about time to commemorate the oeuvre of this highly intellectual artist. One of Freundlich’s most famous sculptures is the Großer Kopf (Large Head) – unfortunately this piece remains missing till this day. For their propaganda exhibition “Entartete Kunst” (Degenerate Art), in 1938 the Nazis put a picture of this expressive artwork on the cover of the exhibition’s catalogue- and from our point of view involuntarily ennobled Freundlich’s master piece that way.

Mosaic by Otto Freundlich: “Die Geburt des Menschen”/”The Birth of Man”

To round off this tour, a short visit to the Kölnischer Kunstverein (Cologne Art Association) seemed appropriate where New York based artist Avery Singer shows her exhibition “Sailor”, and particularly this digital print seems to me like a tribute to Gerhard Richter.

To trace the (short and simple) route I took, here is a map. More interesting will be, how many cities are found in this relatively small area.