Exhibitions in Munich’s museums in 2021: an overview

Au Rendez-vous Des Amis

Finally! We can again enjoy a rendezvous with the Old Masters and the Junge Wilden, as well as a wealth of other international artists. The museums in Munich’s Kunstareal and a number of other important art and cultural institutions have reopened and are ready for your visit. Here are some exhibitions that you’ll definitely want to see:

Revisiting the Old Masters


Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625). The Neuburg Seasons cycle visits the Alte Pinakothek, Alte Pinakothek art gallery, until 26 September 2021

The paintings by Jan Brueghel the Elder are among the greatest treasures on display at the Alte Pinakothek art gallery. With masterpieces such as the “Large Fish Market”, “Harbour Scene with Christ Preaching” and “Madonna in Floral Wreath”, which he created together with Peter Paul Rubens, the museum boasts one of the world’s most extensive collections of his works. The State Gallery in Neuburg an der Donau houses a number of other important paintings by the artist, but ongoing building works mean that an exquisite selection of the State Gallery’s Brueghel pieces is currently on display in the Alte Pinakothek. The highlight of this selection is the “Four Seasons” series, created together with Hendrik van Balen. These pieces capture the passing of the year and feature countless details that invite you to take a closer look.


Bertel Thorvaldsen and Ludwig I, Glyptothek, until 12 September 2021

The Bavarian Wittelsbach dynasty was always open-minded about contemporary art. King Ludwig I, for example, was a great admirer and patron of the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, who was something of a celebrity in the mid-19th century. The “Bertel Thorvaldsen and Ludwig I” exhibition features various pieces by the artist and also examines his relationship with the king. It will remain open at the Glyptothek on Königsplatz until 12 September.

Duckomenta, State Museum of Egyptian Art (SMAEK), until 30 January 2022

The exhibition Duckomenta offers an unusual and exhilarating reunion with the Old Masters.  Not only the "Mona Lisa" or the picnic group from Èdourd Manet's "Breakfast in the Green" wear duck bills here: fossils, foreign artefacts, paintings or sculptures from all epochs and parts of the world prove with a wink: ducks were more than once a beak length ahead of humans. The DUCKOMENTA is a project of the Berlin artists' group interDuck. It has been presenting deceptively real duck exhibits for 30 years. World-famous highlights of human art and cultural history serve as inspiration. Around 150 original DUCKOMENTA works are presented at the SMÄK, including new discoveries from Ancient Egypt.


Strong women, strong art


Under the Open Sky. Travelling with Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter, Lenbachhaus art gallery, until 30 January 2022

Located in Kunstareal, just a few minutes’ walk from the Pinakothek galleries, the Lenbachhaus is currently hosting the “Under the Open Sky. Travelling with Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter” exhibition, which features works by these two most famous members of the Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) art movement. The pair journeyed together for years, travelling light and under the open sky in a passionate search for the perfect means of expression for their painting. They started exploring the area around Munich by bike from 1902, then set their sights on a number of international travel destinations. Driven in equal parts by artistic curiosity and the fact that travelling enabled them to live freely together in a relationship that society would never accept, the pair visited the Netherlands, Tunisia, the Italian Riviera, Paris and finally South Tyrol.


Looking at the Sun at Midnight, Lenbachhaus, until 29 August 2021

Where did the world of female contemporary art go after Münter’s death in the early 1960s? You can find out at the Lenbachhaus art gallery, which is currently exhibiting a collection of works by female artists between 1958 and the present day, entitled “Looking at the Sun at Midnight”. The selection of paintings, photographs, installations, videos and performances reflects how these artists addressed the issues of equality and the relationship between the sexes. However the pieces also address the topics of sexuality and female identity, often in a radical manner. The earliest work in the collection is by Austrian painter Maria Lassnig, who was born in 1919 and died in 2014.

Alexandra Bircken: A–Z, Museum Brandhorst, 28 July 2021 to 16 January 2022

Alexandra Bircken’s art is based on the principles of separating and combining our internal and external worlds. The Museum Brandhorst art gallery is currently hosting the most extensive exhibition to date dedicated to the works of this internationally acclaimed German sculptor. How do we approach our immediate environment? Do we seek to shelter from it, or expose ourselves to it without resistance? Are we vulnerable, or armed and unassailable? And what constitutes the human body in a technoid era that seems to render it an archaic vestigial irrelevance.


Munich – a hub for design and contemporary art


The Mystery of Banksy – A Genius Mind, Isarforum, until 3 Oktober 2021

Who is Banksy? To this day, the street art superstar is a mystery - Banksy, the Bristol-born graffiti artist and painter, keeps his identity a secret. Virtually overnight, his paintings appear on the walls of cities, sometimes with provocative commentaries on world events. His works now fetch top prices on the art market. The exhibition is a tribute to Banksy and shows reproductions of more than 100 works by the celebrated street art superstar: graffiti, photographs, sculptures, video installations and prints on materials such as canvas, fabric, aluminium, forex and Plexiglas. In this way, many of his paintings can also be made accessible to an interested public in Munich. In parallel, a video documentation shows the most important stations on the artist's career ladder.

Part 2: Au Rendez-Vous Des Amis. Classical modernism in dialogue with contemporary art from the Goetz collection, Pinakothek der Modern art gallery, until 16 January 2022

A collaborative exhibition featuring works from the Collection of Modern Art and pieces from the Goetz collection is currently open at the Pinakothek der Moderne and promises to take visitors on a very special journey through time as they explore the art of the 20th century. Titled “Au Rendez-Vous Des Amis”, the exhibition creates a dialogue between classical modernist works such as those of Pablo Picasso, Franz Marc, Emil Nolde, Oscar Schlemmer and Francis Bacon with pieces by contemporary artists from the Goetz Collection, and thereby offers an insight into the complex ways in which contemporary art has been inspired by earlier generations of artists.

Due to its great popularity with visitors, there will be a Part 2 of the exhibition from 6 August, in which the curators have enriched the show with further juxtapositions. Some of the thematically structured rooms have been completely redesigned and show works by Carla Accardi, Michael Buthe, Marcel Odenbach, Tom Sachs, Egon Schiele, Cindy Sherman, Tatiana Trouvé, Luc Tuymans, among others, which now complement the presentation and create further dialogues between classical modernism and contemporary art.


Anish Kapoor – Howl, Pinakothek der Moderne, until 14 November 2021

The rotunda at the entrance to the Pinakothek der Moderne art gallery is dominated by an immense aubergine-coloured globe. There is no getting around it: with its staggering dimensions of 14 x 22 metres, it extends from the skylight dome of the museum over the galleries and far down into the foyer. The sculpture was specially designed for the entrance to the Pinakothek by one of the world’s most prominent sculptors: Anish Kapoor – or as we should say, Sir Anish Kapoor, given that the London-based Indian-born artist was knighted in 2013 for services to the visual arts. The name of the piece, “Howl”, is a reference to writer Allen Ginsberg’s best-known poem, which was a lament for the Beat generation.

Erwin Olaf. Strange beauty, Kunsthalle München, 14 May to 26 September 2021

Photographer Erwin Olaf (*1959) is a celebrated artist in the Netherlands. The Kunsthalle art gallery is currently hosting a retrospective celebrating 40 years of his artistic creations, comprising photographs, videos, sculptures and multimedia installations – the first show of its kind in Germany. Olaf is a master of staged photography, and enjoys collaborating with set designers and make-up artists in his work. Even in his early photographs Olaf drew inspiration from various artists, chiefly 19th-century painters such as Caspar David Friedrich, Arnold Böcklin and Munich “Painter-Prince” Franz von Lenbach. His works address socio-critical issues such as self-determination, equal rights and democracy, employing aesthetics borrowed from the film and advertising industries.


Maarten Baas – New Times, Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum, 11 June to 3 October 2021

Designer Maarten Baas (*1978) also hails from the Netherlands, where he is among the leading figures in his field. Die Neue Sammlung is currently hosting the first extensive exhibition of Baas’ works in Germany. One focal theme of the collection is clocks. Baas approaches this and other topics in a style that is sometimes theatrical and playful, sometimes rebellious or intellectual. The works on show have been influenced by many fields: conceptual design, installation, product design, the public space, interior architecture and theatre and performance.

Lee Mingwei: 禮 Li, Gifts and Rituals, Museum Villa Stuck, 27 May to 12 September 2021

For the first time in Munich, the Villa Stuck museum is presenting the works of Taiwan-born artist Lee Mingwei (*1964), who lives and works in Paris and New York. The exhibition features installations and performances from the past 30 years, in which the artist focuses on rituals of presenting and receiving gifts – and the active involvement of the audience plays a central role. Lee Mingwei presents art itself as a gift. Visitors are encouraged to participate through the offering of songs, conversations and contemplative moments. Furthermore, Lee’s artistic practice also offers ways to process the social impact of the pandemic.


Intervention. Intermezzo Murano. Modern meets Baroque, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, 8 April 2021 to 9 January 2022

An exciting collaboration between the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum and the Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum produced the exhibition “Intervention. Intermezzo Murano. Modern meets Baroque.” Murano is considered the epitome of Italian glass art – a tradition that goes back as far as the 13th century, when Venice moved its already world-famous glass production industry to the neighbouring island of Murano. After a turbulent history, Murano glass experienced a new boom in the 20th century, with manufacturers such as Archimede Seguso, Barovier & Toso and Venini producing trailblazing new work. For the first time, the collection of Baroque glass art at the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum will be presented alongside around 30 exquisite Murano pieces from the second half of the 20th century, on loan from the Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum collection.


MUC/Schmuck. Perspectives on a private Munich jewellery collection, Münchner Stadtmuseum, until 26 September 2021

From the end of the 19th century, goldsmithing became an increasingly important craft in Munich; it had such a profound impact that many goldsmiths and jewellery artists can still be found living and working in the city today. Having been fortunate enough to acquire a collection of Munich jewellery dating mainly from the 1880s to the 1930s, the Münchner Stadtmuseum has joined forces with students from the Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Academy of Fine Arts) and their professor Karen Pontoppidan to design an exhibition that not only offers an insight into these historic pieces and their background, but also showcases today’s budding jewellery artists – their curriculum, artistic approach and the works they create.

Group exhibitions


Sweat, Haus der Kunst, 11 June 2021 to 9 January 2022

The human body produces sweat in response to a range of emotional conditions such as resistance, fear, attraction and repulsion, joy, sexual arousal and excess. Starting from moving bodies, the “Sweat” exhibition speaks of sensual self-empowerment and tells tales of resistance. The 30 artistic voices that have united to stage this exhibition originated in different places, at different times and in the face of different conditions of social pressure. The respective experiences of exclusion and suppression – with respect to culture, gender, origin, social class or sexuality – are neither weighed against one another nor delimited as part of the process. Rather, “Sweat” is intended to direct attention to the complexity of different realities and to create sensory access to current social discourses.


German Pop – Thomas Bayrle, K.H. Hödicke, Jörg Immendorff, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Museum Brandhorst, until 30 April 2022

In parallel with the emergence of Andy Warhol and American Pop Art, many artists in Germany also reacted to the new consumer culture of the 1960s. In recent decades, the Museum Brandhorst art gallery has added a number of outstanding “German Pop” works to its collection. The most recent of these include Jörg Immendorff’s “Teine Tunst mache” (Make No Art), Thomas Bayrle’s “Vasarely” (both 1965) and six early paintings by K.H. Hödicke. Currently on display on the ground floor of the building, the works explore the conservative understanding of art in post-war Germany.

Exhibitions at the NS-Dokumentationszentrum


End of Testimony?, NS-Dokumentationszentrum München (Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism), 24 June to 14 November 2021

“End of Testimony?” was developed by the Jewish Museum Hohenems, the Flossenbürg memorial site and the Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future. The content of the show has been especially adapted by the NS-Dokumentationszentrum München for the Munich exhibition venue and includes accounts by local contemporary witnesses. There will soon be no first-hand witnesses of the Holocaust remaining. Even today, there are only a few survivors of the Nazi regime left who are able to speak about their own experiences or tell the stories of people who were murdered in the Holocaust. What remains are literary testimony and numerous videos of interviews with survivors – raising the question of how we intend to deal with this legacy in the future. The “End of Testimony?” exhibition questions the “constructed” nature of the interviews with contemporary witnesses and their social role since 1945.


Exhibitions at the Deutsches Museum


Science Summer, Deutsches Museum, until 31 September

This year, the Deutsches Museum on Museumsinsel island will once again be hosting “Science Summer”, with lectures, science shows, concerts, workshops and much more taking place outdoors, daily from 12 noon. Visitors can look forward to a spectacular nitrogen demonstration, exciting tales about shipping, aviation and the Cave of Altamira, and get stuck into one of the many hands-on programmes – in keeping with the museum’s motto, “Wissen Erleben” (experience knowledge).


Mobile Kinderwelten (Mobile children’s worlds), Verkehrszentrum (transport museum) at the Deutsches Museum, until 20 February 2022

“Look at that – I used to have one just like it!” Exclamations like this are more common than usual at the Verkehrszentrum (transport museum) right now. The sight of a chopper-style bike, go-kart or soapbox is enough to take many grown-ups back decades. And it’s not just the little ones who will get some fun out of rolling along on the Steiff ride-on bear or strapping a set of springs to the soles of their shoes. The “Mobile Kinderwelten” special exhibition showcases moving toys from a period spanning more than 150 years. The collection includes around 80 pieces, some of them rare or downright bizarre, from the Zimmerrodelbahn (indoor toboggan run) to a fire engine carousel.


You can also find detailed information about the exhibitions and about Munich’s museums, including addresses and opening times, at muenchen.de and museen-in-muenchen.de


Other articles that may interest you: The museums, lakes and landscape in Munich and in the foothills of the Alps combine to form the unique discovery experience that is the MuSeenLandschaft Expressionismus. The Buchheim Museum in Bernried, the Franz Marc Museum in Kochel am See, the Schloßmuseum (castle museum) in Murnau, the Museum Penzberg – Sammlung Campendonk and the Lenbachhaus art gallery in Munich have joined forces to produce a series of exhibitions entitled “Avantgarde in Farbe. Blauer Reiter, Brücke, Expressionismus” (Avant-garde in colour. Blue Rider, Bridges, Expressionism). The exhibition opened in March and will continue to run until November 2021.



Text: Karoline Graf; Photos: Erwin Olaf, Alexandra Bircken, H. Koyupinar, Anpis Wang, Pierre Le Hors, Tom Hegen, Dominik Gruss, interDuck


The City of Munich is also affected by the nationwide measures to contain the coronavirus. The good news: hotels and accommodation establishments, indoor and outdoor gastronomy and shops are open again. All other important information about the coronavirus and your stay in Munich can be found here.