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.
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.
The NordArt is a very nice art event – of course, not to be compared to the documenta, let alone the Biennial in Venice. But yes, they show a great variety of international art and has been one of the largest exhibitions of contemporary art in Europe. So I like it.
Apart from the annual changing exhibitions, some of the works – especially the sculptures in the gardens – stay for longer…like this NICHTS-sign – by the way, nichts means nothing and is therefore exactly the opposite of what you actually get to see at the Kunstwerk Carlshütte.
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 km / 62 miles 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.
Welcome to Büdelsdorf – home of international art….and international cuisine (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.
As it was finally closed down in 1997, the huge premises with the foundries and the historic living and management quarters were acquired by Mr. Hans-Julius Ahlmann, an associate at the globally operating ACO group. He initiated the Kunstwerk – artwork – Carlshütte where now concerts, lectures, film screenings, theater plays, and, obviously, exhibitions are taking place.
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
If you think, wait a minute, isn’t this year as special on?, you are absolutely right: The NordArt celebrates its 20th anniversary; and 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. (Photo: ⓒNordArt2018. Michal Gabriel)
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.
Michal Gabriel Eye To Eye
Michal Gabriel Birth of Venus (Photo: ⓒNordArt2018. Michal Gabriel)
However, Czech artists are widely introduced at the Kunstwerk Carlshütte, anyway. Besides the old factory buildings, there is a huge garden filled with truly outstanding sculptures and installations, and 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 center pieces 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.
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 also a Focus Artist – who by a pure incident, in 2018, happens to be a Czech sculptor; e. g. in 2017, the Country Focus was Denmark and the Focus Artist was Czech enfant terrible David Černý.
Anyway, this year’s Focus Artist is the sculptor Jan Koblasa who sadly passed away last year. The Kunstwerk Carlshütte honors this artist who was highly involved in the NordArt’s conceptualization, organization, and activities.
Jan Koblasa and his unique form of sculpture – raw and at the same time very tender – will be dearly missed.
Lying in state: Lenin, Mao, Hitler, Stalin.
Jan Koblasa: The Demons of the 20th Century
In the front La Traviata II, in the back Adam and Eve with the Snake
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 Chinese Connection
Another recurring segment is the presentation of Chinese artists – organized for years in cooperation with the Chinese embassy and some Chinese culture 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).
Once more the macabre group – in front of an even more terrifying wallhanging by ZHANG Dali Man and Beast.
Yet another jolly bunch of ladies, depicted by LIU Fei Women & Guns No. 30
If you are interested in visiting this outstanding show this summer and need more information, you’ll get all the relevant info here.
The Cheap and Comfortable Daytrip
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 15 minutes walk to the Kunstwerk Carlshütte.
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; but you are only allowed to take the 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. Due to its central position, Hamburg is automatically included in three tickets (Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, and Lower Saxony (that includes also Bremen)). Büdelsdorf is in Schleswig-Holstein, and the day ticket for one person is 28 Euro.
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.
This is Frankfurt…. (ⓒ #visitfrankfurt, Photo: Holger Ullmann)
….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.
Yes, the neighborhood around the main station, the ‘Bahnhofsviertel’, is still a dump with lots of sex shops, eros centers and drug trafficking going on. But once you get past this, you’ll find out that Frankfurt has very homey parts, one of Germany’s most vibrant art scenes, and all the advantages of an international metropolis and at the same time a close proximity to the rolling hills of the Taunus.
Unfortunately all the hotels with a halfway reasonable value for money ratio are located more or less around the mainstation. However, I recommend you to at least stay on the South East side of the station and avoid the dodgy streets on the West towards the convention centre. I’m not saying it’s dangerous and as a matter of fact I stayed there during my last visit; which is the reason why I recommend you to stay away.
An ok hotel a couple of minutes from the main station would be
Already since the mediaval times Frankfurt has been one of the epicenters of European commerce and is today not only Germany’s financial center, but also the location of the ECB, the European Central Bank. And buckle up, this suite will become even stronger with the ‘Brexit’ as London hands its central position over.
So there are all these skyscrapers and glass facades that gave Frankfurt on the Main (the river flowing across the city) the nickname ‘Mainhattan’. But when you look from the financial district back towards the main station, you’re facing Franfurt’s big, dirty womb – the red light district being nothing like ‘Pretty Woman’.
A womb – that’s my key to present you the first exhibition at a really outstanding venue, the Museum für moderne Kunst MMK2, the Museum of Modern Art – ‘2’ because in total there are three MMKs, but we’ll get to that later.
So right now there is a really extraordinary exhibition taking place on the 2000 sqm / over 21,000 sq feet on the second floor of the mighty Taunustower.
I’m a problem
Rumor has it that opera singer Maria Callas swallowed a tapeworm to stay skinny. Based on this story, scene designer Ersan Mondtag created an environment reflecting all sorts of treated and mistreated bodies – very often in search of perfection. So obviously the self-perception “I’m a problem” is not a phenomenon – or rather issue- of the present time as everyone tries to create a perfect image – and many perfect selfies. The pieces in this exhibition are much older.
The centerpiece is a big inflatable tunnel standing for Maria Callas’ guts, and Mondtag arranged the museum’s most disturbing works around it – and even put some inside which you can see through transparent portholes. While you are basically walking through Ms Callas’ guts you are looking at images of mistreated or dead bodies.
In the background: Two Photos by Bettina Rheims. In the front: Elaine Sturtevant Gonzalez Torres Untitled (Go-Go Dancing Platform). Every other Wednesday night there is actually a go go dancer dancing on Elaine Sturtevant’s hommage to Felix Gonzalez Torres (6 p. m. to 11 p. m.). The black oversized tapeworm, that guides the visitor through the exhibition, is made by the group Plastique Fantastique. (Photo: Axel Schneider)
It’s a really intense exhibition and I must say that after a couple of shows that I’ve seen lately I strongly believe that scene designers are the best artists and curators; but I wouldn’t visit this show necessarily with kids.
Ersan Mordag at the table where artist Martin Honert placed his alter ago all by himself. This sculpture – called Foto – was made after an old family picture where other family members where still present; now little Martin is all alone. Thank God that Mordag keeps him company…. (Photo: Axel Schneider)
Open Tuesday to Sunday 11 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Wednesday to 8 p. m.)
This brings me to the next contrast:
Sheep vs. Wolves
Yes, there are sheep and wolves in Frankfurt: The wolves at the MMK1 (the main venue of the above mentioned Museum für Moderne Kunst), where right now the graduates from the Städel art school are showing their masterpieces.
Have some old fur blankets at home? Try to form a Pack of Wolves from them, just like up-and-coming artist Hanna-Maria Hammari from Finland did.
As a matter of fact, this work was the one that blew me away the farthest this weekend: I deeply admire how she brought this pack to life by simply wrapping cloth around wire (they have no heads, no tails and yet they look so real)
Open Tuesday to Sunday 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Wednesday to 8 p. m.)
The sheep are a permanent exhibit at the Museum für Kommunikation, the Museum of Communication, and that is a perfect venue to spend a couple of hours with your kids.
Flock of sheep by Jean-Luc Cornac – we certainly won’t be able to make something that beautiful and fun from cellphones….
Besides the exciting permanent exhibition on telecommunication (great fun: the first cellphones – big as bricks) and mail (absurd: our ancestors seemed to have written on paper) they have fantastic temporary shows mostly dealing with modern media. Right now there is a cool exhibition on the history of German music which maybe won’t be that much fun for guests from foreign, but for German visitors it’s a must: say hello to all your friends and foes.
Open Tuesday to Friday 9 a. m. to 6 p. m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a. m. to 7 p. m.
History vs. Contemporary
Another great place for big and small alike is the Historische Museum, the historical museum on the other bank of the Main. Tracing Frankfurt’s history and development from the first finds till today’s life you get educated in a pretty fun way: Whether you climb the old tower or get informed on particular aspects by very modern and original hands on exhibits.
Designed by Dutch artist Herman Helle and realized by his twelve elves (i. e. assistants), this city model covering 70 square meters / over 750 square feet is made from all sort of surprising materials like i.a. toilet brushes, cell phones etc. The artist used gadgets symbolizing the respective building like e. g. a mousetrap for the state prison.
There are not only Frankfurt’s neighborhoods to be discovered!
Herman Helle and his people were working more than a year to realize this really one of a kind piece. From underneath the model you can hear city noises coming out of ‘rabbit holes’ and of course they did not forget to add the nine bridges crossing river Main (see below).
Open Tuesday to Friday 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Wednesday to 9 p. m.), Saturday and Sunday 11 a. m. to 7 p. m.
Once you’re done, you just have to cross the Römerberg, the main historic square, and you get to the Kunstverein Frankfurt, the Art Association, and here it’s all state of the art.
Although already founded in 1829 and being one of Germany’s oldest Art Associations, this venue offers the young, international generation of artists a platform for experimental expressions, introduces new artistic positions and innovative perspectives.
Perception is Reality
At this moment the Kunstverein shows the group exhibition called “Perception is Reality: On the Construction of Reality and Virtual Worlds” including artists like Thomas Demand (see also my posts on Milan and Venice), Polish art darling Alicja Kwade, but also the Bavarian State Office of Criminal Investigation. Whaaat? Yes, not only are their some creepy pieces on display, you can also wander sites of crime like a blood smeared kitchen. Virtually, that is.
You might ask yourself why I’m wearing a disposable burglar mask. Well, hygiene first is their motto and I’m next in line to put on these glasses and wander around in a blood smeared kitchen – virtually.
And that brings me to the question whether virtual reality can be considered ‘Art’.
Virtual works are getting popular in the art scene – there were project like this already at the last Berlin Biennal. But I ask myself – and would love to hear your opinion on this – in how far this is more art than virtual role games: Some of them are very artistic and original and ingeniously set up, hence we tell our kids to rather go to play outside instead of wasting time with this nonsense. And then on Sunday we drag them to an art gallery to admire the exact same thing!?
Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a. m. to 7 p. m. (Thursday to 9 p. m.)
Tradition vs. Modernity
Did I just mention the Römerberg? Oh, that of course is one place definitely not to be missed: A cobblestone covered square surrounded by cute little half-timer houses – and almost each of them houses a traditional restaurant on the street level – so just take your pick. And don’t forget to wash your meal down with a glass of ‘Äppelwoi’, the typical apple wine from the Hesse (the Federal country were Frankfurt is located).
We are heading towards Christmas and I know that you will all enjoy a picture of a German Christmas market – in addition in the backdrop of these cozy old buildings – does it get any more stereotyped?!? (ⓒ #visitfrankfurt, Photo: Holger Ullmann)
Don’t miss out on the most important building on the square’s West side, the old townhall called ‘Römer’. Interestingly this building was not built for this purpose, the city bought these two merchant’s houses in the 15th century.
The infamous “Römer” – stored on every tourist’s camera. (ⓒ #visitfrankfurt, Photo: Holger Ullmann)
Across the square from the townhall is a small alley and at the end is a more modern building – showing more modern exhibition: the Schirn Kunsthalle.
The Schirn art gallery is one of Europe’s most prestigious art galleries. Since its opening in 1986 they’ve organized over 220 exhibitions on their floor space of about 2000 sqm / over 21,000 sq feet. The venue does not have a permanent collection, but only temporary exhibition of modern art – and at this moment there is one that fits the concept of stark contrasts just fine:
Glanz und Elend der Weimarer Republik
(Splendor and Misery in the Weimar Republic)
To understand the development of German politics to the Nazi regime, this exhibition is a must since it focuses on the time between 1918 and 1933, i. e. the period after World War I until the Nazis came to power. A period of the greatest contrasts and fastest developments both, up and down: Demoralized by the lost war, hit by inflation and mass unemployment, war widows and crippled soldiers vegetated next to war profiteers.
Otto Dix Kriegskrüppel(War Cripples)
Latter enjoyed a frivolous entertainment industry while others saw no other way than full time or part time prostitution to make a living. This political unrest and economic disasters resulted in extreme political positions.
Depicting the new type of women in the at that time very popular style of New Objectivity: Rudolf Schlichter Porträt einer Frau mit Pagenschnitt und Krawatte
(Portrait of a Woman with Bob and Tie)
On the other hand it was an extremely libertine and progressive era: A whole new image of feminism, acceptance of homosexuality, radical and reformist artistic and social movements – which all vanished as soon as the Nazis came to power.
Tom boy painter Lotte Laserstein Selbstporträt mit Katze (Self-Protrait with Cat)
Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday 10 a. m. to 7 p. m. (Wednesday and Thursday to 10 p. m.)
Matisse vs. Bonnard
Contrast yes, but two French men in a post on Frankfurt?
Yes, Frankfurt’s most famous art museum, the Städel, is presenting a substantial exhibition of these to painter friends from the pre-expressionist era. Friends, contemporaries and yet so different in their artistic expression.
The guide did a great job and pointed out many interesting details,….
Museum seems to be the new black since the Städel-people organized a truly cool event around this special show including a little test if you were rather the discrete – regarding his character and his painting alike – Pierre Bonnard or the flashy and outgoing Henri Matisse.
….but Henri Matisse, part of the ‘fauves’ movement, painting his self portrait in bright colors with expansive brush strokes….
….respectively Emile Bonnard, member of the artist group Nabis, with his hesitant, rather post-impressionist way of painting in muted shades show us their techniques and artistic as well as personal positions quite clearly.
Then social media people were invited to a special guided tour and a party. A very unique and fun event and I was very happy having been there.
And at the end we the visitors had the chance to create our own self portraits.
A few words about the Städel Museum: Founded in 1815 by banker and businessman Johann Friedrich Städel, it owns a very complete collection from about 700 years of art – from Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque to Classicism and Romanticism. From Impressionism and Expressionism to Pop Art and Contemporary.
Probably the most iconic painting at the Städel: Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein Goethe in der Campagna (Goethe at the Campagna)
So in addition to their usually outstanding special exhibition, their permanent collection holds some nice pieces for every taste. Especially in Summer there is also their sculpture park to enjoy: Famous pieces of art under huge trees in a lush garden.
Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Thursday and Friday to 9 p. m.)
Black vs. White
Fashion in black, white or over 50 shades of grey: Born in 1943 in a small village near Hamburg, Jil Sander raised in her career from a fashion journalist and small boutique owner to the international clean cut look-superstar with stores all over the world.
Bling Bling according to Jil Sander (please do notice the gold stripes)
Respected and admired for her designs independent from the fast changing fashion dictates, the “queen of less” scored with timeless elegance – and quality, whether in her designs or in the fabrics and other materials she chose for them.
Another extra-contrast: The museum complex actually consists of two building, connected by a bridge. While the temporary exhibition is taking place at the big white open modern building, the permanent collection of old furniture is placed at the historic Villa Metzler built in 1804 in the what then used to be outskirts of Frankfurt as pharmacist Peter Salzwedel’s summer house.
The fact that the MAK allocated its entire exhibition space – 3.000 square metres/ more than 32,000 square feet – to this show, divided into different thematic sections like runway, fashion lines, accessories, cosmetics, but also architecture and garden art, underlines her magnitude as a fashion designer. However, this is by no means a retrospective: Jil Sander is still very active in the fashion circus so that this exhibition just has to be seen as a milestone.
Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Wednesday to 8 p. m.)
North vs. South
The river Main is flowing through Frankfurt from East to West. Since almost all the tourist attractions are on the Northern shore, most visitors will stay there – and maybe crossing the bridges to visit the many museums along the Museumsufer – the museum shore. But with a little extra time a walk through the old residential area of Sachsenhausen is very pleasant and gives you a feel how the real Frankfurter lives – by checking out the cute little specialty shops along the Brückenstraße and having a nice french tarte and a café au lait at L’Atelier des Tartes (you’ll find this further below in the Big vs. Small section).
There are nine very different bridges crossing the river Main at the city center – and you should walk across at least two of them:
Alte Brücke (Old Bridge)
The ‘Alte Brücke’ was mentioned for the first time in a document in 1235, so I guess it deserves its name ‘Old Bridge’. Over centuries, the old bridge was the only connection between the two banks of the Main. Initially a wooden construction, there are pictures from the early 15th century depicting it built from stone. A peculiarity is the ‘Maininsel’, an isle under the bridge that keeps changing its shape. On the island is the boat house of the Frankfurt rowing club from 1865, the city’s oldest rowing club. Another structure is the ‘Portikus‘, built in 2006 that houses a gallery for contemporary art.
Eiserner Steg (Iron Footbridge)
The ‘Eiserner Steg’ was built in 1869 and has since then been one of Frankfurt’s icons, painted e. g. by expressionist Max Beckmann. Today the iron contruction is decorated with a banner citing Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ in Greek: ΠΛΕΟΝ ΕΠΙ ΟΙΝΟΠΑ ΠΟΝΤΟΝ ΕΠ ΑΛΛΟΘΡΟΟΥΣ ΑΝΘΡΩΠΟΥΣ (On the sea the color of wine sailing to other people).
You have to look twice to see Hagen Bonifer‘s work above the passersby’s heads: ΠΛΕΟΝ ΕΠΙ ΟΙΝΟΠΑ ΠΟΝΤΟΝ ΕΠ ΑΛΛΟΘΡΟΟΥΣ ΑΝΘΡΩΠΟΥΣ
Walking the romantic iron bridge, loaded with lovers’ padlocks, offers a superb view of the skyline to the right and the museums bank to the left.
Eiserner Steg – bridge with a view.
Water vs. Earth
At the Northern end of the iron bridge is the jetty from where you can take a boat cruise along the river. Since there are sooo many different cruises to chose from – and now they also add the Christmas cruises, please check their website to see which one’s for you.
Cruising on the Main. (ⓒ #visitfrankfurt, Photo: Holger Ullmann)
Note that from November to February they are cruising only on weekends.
A walk in the park is possible anytime, and Frankfurt has a surprisingly large number of parks, gardens and even little forests. The closest one is of course the promenade along the Main. If you want more nature and at the same time a more sophisticated surrounding, go to the Westend area where you find one of Frankfurt’s two botanic gardens – with a size of almost 22 ha / over 54 acres on of Germany’s largest botanic garden.
An elegant park for a nice day out on a sunny day – Frankfurt’s palm garden. (ⓒ #visitfrankfurt, Photo: Holger Ullmann)
The garden was built in 1871 according to French parks like Butte-Chaumant. Besides a vast variety of plants there is the ‘Gesellschaftshaus’ (society house), an elegant neo-classicist palace, to be admired where different exhibitions and events are taking place.
The garden is accessible from February till October from 9 a. m. to 6 p. m. and from November till January 9 a. m. to 4 p. m.
Entrance fee is 7 €uro, however, with the Frankfurt Card you pay only half.
Big vs. Small
Frankfurt is a good place to shop. There are the big luxury brands along the Goethestraße and along the Zeil you find all the stores that you will also see in any other big city – from Amsterdam to Zagreb. When you really want to spend your time in Frankfurt paying Zara, Mango, and H&M a visit – do as you please. But in this case pay at least the shopping center MyZeil a visit – and be it only for the special spiral architecture by star architect Massimiliano Fuksas.
By no means I think that bigger is better, even less when it comes to shopping. While at the Goethestraße and the Zeil you’ll get everything the average shopper knows, it’s far more interesting checking out the small independent specialty shops and boutiques that are one of a kind and give a city its unique charm.
This sort of shops is to find in Sachsenhausen, my favorite hood in Frankfurt, anyway. Just cross the Alte Brücke and you’ll find yourself on the very cute and charming Brückenstraße where you can look and browse as much as you like.
Once you’re in Sachsenhausen, don’t miss out on the many small places where you can have an artisan snack and a good coffee or organic juice in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. A perfect place for a small bite is the French L’Atelier du Tarte – already mentioned above.
Despite the separation of church and state, one of the most important milestones of German history and politics is exhibited at the Paulskirche, a former church. The church was built between 1789 and 1833 and was till 1944 Frankfurt’s main protestant church (today the Katharinenkirche (St. Catherine’s) serves this purpose) The Paulskirche (St. Paul’s) houses today an exhibition and an assembly hall.
From 1848 to 1849 the delegates to the Frankfurt national assembly held their meeting at this classicist rotunda. This assembly was the first freely elected parliament of Germany. Therefore the Paulskirche is considered one of the most important symbols of the democratic movement in Germany.
60311 Frankfurt am Main
Frankfurter Dom/Kaiserdom St. Bartholomäus (Frankfurt Cathedral)
Frankfurt Cathedral by night. (ⓒ #visitfrankfurt, Photo: Holger Ullmann)
The Frankfurt Cathedral, officially Imperial Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew, is a Roman Catholic built between 1250 and 1514 in Gothic style. The church served the Roman German emperors as their coronation church. It is one of the most important structures of the imperial history and symbol of national unity. The church tower can be climbed.
Since there are so many museums and galleries to be visited in Frankfurt, you probably wonder how much one pays for all this glory. Well, let me surprise you: 18 €uros – that’s it; if you buy a MuseumsuferTicket, a museum card that is.
For 48 hours, incredible 34 museums are covered with this little piece of cardboard and you can even visit them as often as you please.
You think that’s great and cannot be any better? Wrooong: Every month’s last Saturday is ‘Satourday’ and entrance to many museums is free and there are special events on and it’s all a big art feast. (Unfortunately some of the introduced venues do not participate, please check before you go).
If your visit to Frankfurt should be more diverse, the Frankfurt Card grants you unlimited use of public transport (airport included), up to 50 per cent discount on museum tickets, discount on entrance to the botanic garden Palmgarten and the river cruise, sight seeing tours and much more.
A single tickets costs € 10,50 for one day and €uro 22 for two. A group ticket (2 to 5 persons) costs €uro 15,50 for one day and €uro 32 for two. You can get the ticket at the tourist information at the airport (Service points in terminal 1 and 2), the main station, the Römer square and many other places (even at some hotels) or you order it online and print it at home.
Need some orientation where to find the described attractions? Here you go: I’ve made a map with every attraction mentioned above so you can adjust your personal itinerary according to the locations:
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” (“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.
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” (“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’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.
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.
Brown is not a good color in Austria.
Düsseldorfer Straße 51
Phone: + 49 – 203 – 283 26 30
Email: email@example.com 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.
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” (“The Golden Bull”)
Markus Lüpertz: Sculptures “Kopf der Judith” (“Judith’s Head”) and painting “Traum des Künstlers” (“Artist’s Dream”)
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”
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
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.
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).
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”
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.
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” (“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!
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
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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 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”
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.
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.
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.
The next attraction, the so called ‘sun wheel’, will be turning from next year on.
Since 1977, the Skulptur Projekte takes place only every ten years – and coincides this year with the documenta, the Biennale and many more. This year, there’s an art burst going on!
In 2017 the Skulptur Projekte teams up for the first time with Marl, a town with about 80,000 inhabitants, located in North Rhine Westphalia. A town that was thrown together from a handful of villages without something like a city center; Marl is practically Germany’s Los Angeles (according to malicious tongue Dorothy Parker “Los Angeles is 72 suburbs in search of a city”).
No, kidding aside, actually Marl takes the cake for being the most charmless city on planet blue.
Train station Marl – escape route in both directions.
But – there are the sculptures! Marl possesses an unusually vast amount of high class sculptures, many stemming from the much-noticed exhibitions “Stadt und Skulptur” (City and Sculpture) in 1970 and 1972. There are the big names such as Jean Arp, Richard Serra, August Rodin, and the inevitable Henry Moore, but there are also objects by less known artists that are by no means less ingenious.
The sculptures are found around the – artificially excavated – lake and the horrible concrete town hall. However, the major part is to be found on the terrain of the old
graveyard. Sometimes a close look is needed to distinguish the sculptures from the remaining grave stones; you know how good art is: full of surprises.
They offer an excellent interactive map so you don’t miss any of the goodies.
So since this year Münster is collaborating with Marl, under the title “The Hot Wire” six Sculptures are added to their permanent treasure.
Right in front of the horribly concrete town hall, there is the hollow marble block called “Momentary Monument 2017” by Lara Favaretto which should be used as a piggy bank (at the end of the exhibition the block will be shattered and the money will of course be donated).
There is the…well, it doesn’t qualify as an inert ‘sculpture’ since it’s two riders on living horses, a white one and a black one, going in opposite directions. The…whatever you might call it…is by the late Reiner Ruthenbeck and called “Begegnung schwarz/weiß. Re-enactment” (Encounter black/white. Re-enactment).
It was raining on Sunday, so no horsies for me.
The parking lot is decorated with Thomas Schütte‘s “Melonensäule” (Melon Column) and a “Fahrradständermonument” (Cycle Rack Monument) by Richard Artschwager. Both objects are made (partly) from concrete and hence match the horrible concrete town hall.
In the middle of all these nice things, on the ground floor of the horrible concrete town hall, there is the Sculpture Museum “Glaskasten” that actually is – like its name suggests – a glass box. They have a very interesting permanent collection and amazing temporary exhibits. Complementing the brouhaha about the Skulptur Projekte 2017, they show some witty objects on loan from the LWL Kunsthalle in Münster.
And in the basement there is a collection of many, many prototypes of sculptures that were submitted for the Skulptur Projekte in the past and present. A superb overview.
Enthralling overview of sculpture prototypes in the basement of the Skulptur Museum Glaskasten.
During the event, that started on June 10 and goes on till October 1, there is a special shuttle bus between the two
cities, but it’s a very limited service: exclusively on Sundays,
starting at Münster at 10 a.m. and going back from Marl at 2 p.m., which
gives you three hours in Marl; that’s a lot. I took the train.
Cosima von Bonin and Tom Burr: “Benz Bonin Burr”
Watch out, Henry Moore! The young generation of wild and free artists might pack your sculpture in the big black wooden crate and move it away in no time.
I guess in Münster they had to place some of the sculpture just where there was space – there is no real golden thread guiding you, and even with the map they sell for 3 € finding certain pieces is not granted: they just sprinkled the map with red dots. You have to read the address and description on the map’s back to get a good hint where to search. In general larger groups of people indicate the position of an art object. But beware, I also accidentally joined a group buying a ticket for a car park…
Here is just a random overview of the art works I liked the best – and I spare you this wretched ‘The 5 best blablabla not to be missed’ I hate on blogs. It’s five randomly picked pieces I liked, listed in no particular order. Period.
Aram Bartholl: “3V”
Bartholl’s three chandeliers are not only pretty, they are also very clever and sustainable: a thermoelectric device transforms fire from tee candles in electricity, making the LEDs shine. Go to his Website, just because it’s so cool.
Another crucial sisterly advice: Rent a bike! Besides being the ‘city of
bikes’, anyway – Münster has about 300,000 inhabitants and 500,000 bicycles – on the occasion of the Skulptur Projekte there are
additional bike rentals – one is just next to the main venue, the LWL Kunstmuseum. I did everything walking and it was a drag and I missed all the cool stuff outside of the town center. So when in
Münster, do as the Münsterians do – get a bike.
They did it walking, too. Guided tours can be booked over the project’s website. Since they are free, people seem to be booking like there’s no tomorrow, and then the tours start half empty (what doesn’t gall only the visitors who didn’t get a ticket, but also the organizers).
Cheap and comfortable day tripping
a special tip for you Germany-travellers: For about 25 Euro you can
travel an entire day by train within every federal country; but you are
only allowed to take the 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. Münster and Marl are both in North Rhine Westphalia.
On the road again – last weekend to Osnabrück, Münster, and Marl. Saturday started with the Çanakkale Art Walk in Osnabrück.
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.
I don’t know what “Büdelsdorf” sounds like to foreign language speakers; to Germans it evokes images of flat, green pastures and farmers in mud-smeared gumboots, drinking beer from a bottle on a bench in front of their houses, greeting bypassers with a terse ‘Moin’ – the North German form of greeting at any time of the day, although strictly it means ‘Good Morning’.
But every summer, Büdelsdorf welcomes tens of thousends visitors when the NordArt takes place, one of Europe’s biggest exhibition of contemporary art.
This year, Liu Ruo Wang’s “Wolves Coming” is arranged in the Kunstwerk Carlshütte’s sculpture garden. In 2016, it was placed in the main exhibition hall where this year…. (Photo: ⓒNordArt2017. Liu Ruowang)
…Xu Bing’s “Phoenix” spread their wings, made of discarded material.
Another outstanding, fun work by Xu Bing (*1955) was introduced in an earlier post. (Photo: ⓒNordArt2017. Xu Bing)
Büdelsdorf isn’t even a town, it’s sort of a suburb of a small town called Rendsburg, so this might give you an idea how secluded it really is. In English, you call a place like this politely ‘secluded’. The Spaniards have a more rustic expression for it: “en el culo del diablo” – in the devil’s butt.
But I assure you it’s worth travelling into the devil’s…bowels, because since 1999 there is this spectacular art event taking place, and last Saturday was this year’s opening (and it will go on till October 8, 2017).
Why Büdelsdorf of all places? The answer can be foreseen – it’s as always a question of space and money. In 1827, the Carlshütte iron foundry was opened and operated for 170 years. When business closed in 1997, Hans-Julius Ahlmann, Managing Partner of the internationally active ACO Group, took over the grounds with its enormous industrial halls and the historic housing. Since then it’s been used for various cultural project, thus also every summer for the NordArt.
While most of the statues and installations in the sculpture park remain in their places – they are made of iron, stone, and marble, so a bit heavy to be shuffled around on the garden’s 861,112 square feet too often – the exhibition at the industrial hall shows every year an interesting selection of young, contemporary artist.
A pleasant family picnic in the lush garden surrounded by beautiful sculptures.
Although you don’t find the big, important (German) names here, you’ll get to see fresh, inspiring art from all over the world – and at the opening, with free entrance for everybody, you get to meet many of the artists in person.
Berlin based artist Jacinta Besa (*1987) from Chile in front of her work ‘Look What I Found I – III’, getting her picture taken by her compatriot and fellow artist María Ossandón (*1986) (and bye:myself).
This year, 3,682 artists from 99 countries applied for showing their master pieces. Although this number was slightly lower than in 2016, and the hall offers space for exhitions on 236,806 square feet, of course not everybody was admitted, so finally there are about 200 artists on display.
Phew, there’s a lot of walking to do if you want to see everything. Therefore it’s good that the organizers placed chairs between the exhibition walls and the remains of the old appliances and machines.
Every year the focus is on a partner country, and in 2017 this happens to be Denmark, bordering the German federal country of Schleswig-Holstein, so they practically just had to hop over the border.
Plus in 2017, Kunstwerk Carlshütte is official partner of the celebration of 45 years diplomatic relations between Germany and the People’s Republic of China, therefore the NordArt focusses once again on artists from the Middle Kingdom.
Rusty iron ‘paper cuts’ Bonn based Chinese artist Ren Rong (*1960) is famous for are standing in the venue’s sculpture park…
…just like these three rusty houses. Rust seems to be the new black.
Last – and definitely not least – there is David Černý (*1967) from the Czech Republic, winner of 2016th NordArt Prize and therefore 2017th Focus Artist. In his hometown Prague, there are by now 14 installations in public spaces, at the NordArt he tops this by presenting 19 of his really fun sculptures and installations.
A crafting set from the KITS-series: Assemble your personal Jesus – in life size! There are also a Rockstar and an Artist in the exhibition to be freed from their cellophane package… Not everybody understands Černý’s acid humor, and the Czech enfant terrible already caused some scandals; but isn’t that what art is all about?!
David Černý’s self portrait “Černý” from the series FACES, hanging next to portraits of J. Robert Oppenheimer and Wernher von Braun (who I first took for Putin).
Detail of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s portrait – assembled from thousands small pieces.
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.
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; but you are only allowed to take the 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. Due to its central position, Hamburg is automatically included in three tickets (Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, and Lower Saxony (that includes also Bremen)).
Büdelsdorf is in Schleswig-Holstein, and the day ticket for one person is 28 Euro.
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.
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