A light projection at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich

The Kunstareal lights up

A city of lights

Fancy spending an evening seeing Munich’s Kunstareal museum area in a very special light? From now until 14 February, visitors to the area will be greeted by light installations created by a host of renowned Munich artists. Our author went for a wander around the area on the opening day of the event.

Up the stairs from the U-Bahn station to Königsplatz; I pull my mask down. The sky looks crazy – a dark brew of blues and greys. The columned entrance of the Propyläen is bedecked with festive lights as though for a gala event, and it feels like limousines will start arriving with guests in finery at any moment.

But appearances can be deceiving, as they are in this case, when the path between the columns simply leads you back outside. Nevertheless, my festive mood is undampened, because the interior lighting of the Propyläen is actually there to mark the start of a very special evening event: a number of Munich artists have created a stunning outdoor exhibition of light and video installations, inviting people to discover and explore the diversity of the museums, institutions and architecture in the Kunstareal, here in the Maxvorstadt district.

I cross diagonally to the Antikensammlungen. There are still only a few people on the square; I am almost alone with the museum, and it is literally shining on me. At the moment Franz von Lenbach’s scantily clad Salome is performing her immoral dance between the columns of the temple building. Opposite the dancer, to the right of the entrance, Franz Marc’s Blue Horse and Tiger are projected onto the exterior wall.

Like the bare-breasted femme fatale, they can be viewed in their usual form in the Lenbachhaus art gallery just around the corner. Other paintings and statues from the Lenbachhaus also appear, along with exhibits from the Antikensammlungen and aerial views of the Kunstareal. The pictures have escaped the confines of their gallery frames to be seen unusually close to me here.

At the moment Franz von Lenbach’s scantily clad Salome is performing her immoral dance between the columns of the temple building.

It’s getting towards 5 pm, and students from the University of Music and Performing Arts begin to leave campus, burdened with heavy instrument cases. They bid their farewells to each other bathed in an orange light; the atmosphere it creates is wonderful. I just stand there and watch for quite a long time.

The technical term for this colour of light is amber, and its warm tone is gentle on both the eyes and the scene it illuminates. In order to present a uniform overall look, the same colour has also been used on the neighbouring Museum for Casts of Classical Works of Art and several other buildings. Huge rays of light shine from roof to roof, further underlining the references and tangibly exposing the full scale of the Kunstareal.

They bid their farewells to each other bathed in an orange light; the atmosphere it creates is wonderful. I just stand there and watch for quite a long time.

Only now do I realise that a light is shining from the Turmstube tavern in the Technical University’s historic building on Gabelsbergerstraße. First fiery red, then blue. I am captivated. What is going on up there? When I was a child, there was a little glass window in the back of our oven, behind which glowed a tiny light bulb. I was quite sure this was the home of the baking fairies, whom I never managed to set eyes on, no matter how often I tried. Light is one of those things that everyone has their own story and experiences about.

A little later I meet the monumental sculpture that stands in front of the State Museum of Egyptian Art and has been staring through a red tube into the underground museum for year and day. Now, for once, it would have a good opportunity to stand up. The treasures of the collection can just be admired in a fascinating way as a projection on the outer wall.

Light is one of those things that everyone has their own story and experiences about.

A kaleidoscope of golden masks and other items spanning over 5,000 years of Ancient Egyptian art and culture splinter and fly apart, only to piece themselves together again.

The stooped figure would even be able to expand its horizons, as the light show also features exhibits from the Museum für Abgüsse klassischer Bildwerke (Museum of Casts of Classical Statues), drone flights and pictures of the exterior of the Kunstareal.

Video: Lighting event Kunstareal

On the grassy area between the Alte Pinakothek art gallery and the Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film (University of Television and Film Munich), I approach a collection of black- and white-painted balls, which can be seen from a long way off. Their white LED illumination contrasts with the chaotically colourful fairy lights of that student haunt, the Minna Thiel, located opposite. Behind me I hear someone saying that he has never gotten over the scrapping of the old light bulbs. I feel so content here in the midst of the starry constellation made up by the 18 museums of the Kunstareal. But the photographers are less happy at my presence; they want to take pictures of the balls and I am in the way. At least ten tripods are set up around the ensemble, and it is certainly the most popular motif of the evening.

The pictures have escaped the confines of their gallery frames to be seen unusually close to me here.

The light show also has the effect of making me more aware of the everyday city lights I can see. There are the many different dogs with light-up collars, designer lamps in the window of the home furnishings store and a single bright blue cube on the Technical University of Munich. When a traffic light switches to red, a fire of countless red brake lights erupts in response.

A little further off to the north of the Alte Pinakothek is the Lichterwald – the forest of light. Despite the unusual combination of colours here – violet, blue and orange – it feels almost reverently Christmassy. Young women with prams sit beneath the illuminated trees. The clacking of table tennis balls can be heard from the playground. Light also tells us: there’s life here. It is wonderful to be out strolling around in the cold and to not be alone.

What is my personal highlight from this light show? The illumination of the façade at the Pinakothek der Moderne art gallery. To the left of the entrance, the building offers three equally-sized projection surfaces, which are illuminated with the most fascinating photos of stones and minerals that I have ever seen. I have never been to the Reich der Kristalle museum – the “crystal kingdom” – opposite the building, but now I’m really keen to go.

Betty Mü breaks down the barriers between inside and out, replacing walls with façades made from lively, colourful light.

The projections then change to show photos of the interior of the Alte Pinakothek and works of art from all three Pinakothek galleries in full, vivid colour. For me, the video art of renowned Munich artist Betty Mü feels like a dream about an architecture of the future.

It breaks down the barriers between inside and out, replacing walls with façades made from lively, colourful light. When I see my friends, I am going to tell them they absolutely have to see it.

 

City of Munich light show

Here you can find more information about the City of Munich light show and the artists involved.

 

 

Text: Karoline Graf; Photos: Frank Stolle, Sara Kurig, Derek Henthorn Photography

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