On the eve of the 20th century, no less an authority than Pablo Picasso maintained that the best place in Europe to learn art was…no, not Paris, but Munich. A thorough grounding in academic traditions along with a sense of experimentation gave rise to the Munich Secession, Der Blaue Reiter group of painters and the local version of Art Nouveau known as Jugendstil.
But how does Munich shape up over a hundred years later when it comes to art by living artists?
Of course, Berlin is now Germany’s powerhouse for creating, exhibiting and selling contemporary art. But after keeping a low profile for many years, Munich is reasserting itself. Their contemporary art fair (Contempo Munich) is now in its second year, and new museums are joining the venerable art institutions of the Bavarian capital.
The Pinakothek der Moderne celebrates its 10th anniversary next year. Its permanent collection, like its temporary shows, sees the best of 20th century Modernism in dialogue with contemporary works. It was joined in 2009 by the Museum Brandhorst, almost next door. Inside the Brandhorst you’ll find the obligatory white-wall-and-floorboards template of modern exhibition spaces, with ceilings up to nine meters high ensuring the gallery can exhibit works on the most ambitious scale. But the exterior of the building rivals just about anything shown inside: Both playful and austere, the façade is made up of 36,000 colored rods in rigid formation.
Between these two museums is the dinky Türkentor, a lonely surviving fragment of 19th century barracks which once housed a young Adolf Hitler. It is now adapted into an art space, currently showing a work (yes, just the one) by American artist Walter de Maria entitled, Large Red Sphere, which is a small yellow cube.
Just kidding: it’s a large red sphere.