A stroll amid the architecture and art of Munich’s museums is always exciting, often uplifting and sometimes simply comforting. Visitors feel a rush of joy as soon as they catch sight of the golden cube of the Lenbachhaus art gallery, the multi-coloured façade of the Museum Brandhorst art gallery or the powder pink, light-flooded stairwell in the Alte Pinakothek art gallery. And that is before they even get to the Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider), Europe’s largest collection of Andy Warhol works or the original Rubens and Dürer pieces on display.
In winter 2020/2021, the museums in Munich’s Kunstareal museum area and a number of other prominent art galleries in the city will be presenting a whole series of exhibitions that are sure to delight the eye, lift the spirits and celebrate the freedom of art. Munich is a treasure trove of great art from all eras, and the art collection of the Wittelsbach family forms the core of many of the offerings.
The family has always been particularly interested in contemporary art throughout its dynasty. 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. “Bertel Thorvaldsen and Ludwig I” presents pieces by the sculptor and examines his relationship with the king. The exhibition will open on 27 January, when the Glyptothek art gallery on Königsplatz reopens to the public.
Glyptothek: Bertel Thorvaldsen and Ludwig I
The origins of the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum can also be traced back to the Wittelsbach passion for collecting. At this venue visitors can admire treasures from late antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque era and the 19th century as well as the Art Nouveau era. From 26 November the museum will host a new exhibition focusing on the period around 1500, titled “Kunst und Kapitalverbrechen. Veit Stoß, Tilman Riemenschneider und der Münnerstädter Altar” (Art and capital crimes. Veit Stoß, Tilman Riemenschneider and the Münnerstädter Altar).
At that time, Veit Stoß – one of the leading south German late-Gothic masters – got on the wrong side of the law, and he was more or less on the run when he created his richly coloured painting for the Riemenschneider altar in Münnerstadt.
Bayerisches Nationalmuseum: Kunst und Kapitalverbrechen. Veit Stoß, Tilman Riemenschneider und der Münnerstädter Altar
Duke Albrecht V collected Egyptian art during the second half of the 16th century, and then later Elector Karl Theodor and Crown Prince Ludwig (subsequently King Ludwig I) continued in his footsteps. Their collections created the foundation for the Staatliche Museum Ägyptischer Kunst (SMÄK, State Museum of Egyptian Art).
Currently and until 10 January, the SMÄK is hosting a large-scale, room-filling installation by Ilana Lewitan on the topic of marginalisation, along with works that interact with the museum’s permanent exhibitions. This Munich artist certainly has a notable biography: after completing studies in interior design and architecture and spending some time working as an architect and illustrator in New York, she went on to pursue further studies in painting under Hans Daucher and Markus Lüpertz.
Her work, entitled “Adam, wo bist du?” (Adam, where are you?) includes multiple stations with audio and visual material that demonstrates how devastating it is when people pigeonhole others on the basis of specific patterns. Lewitan’s interviews with people who have been marginalised, such as Shoah survivors Max Mannheimer and Charlotte Knobloch, followers of various religions, transgender people, refugees and blind people, are particularly impactful.
Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst (SMÄK): Adam, wo bist du?
The close links between the Wittelsbach family and contemporary art continue even today. Franz, Duke of Bavaria, is the current head of the Wittelsbach family and a patron of Munich’s cultural landscape. He has loaned his own collection, which includes works by Joseph Beuys, Jörg Immendorf and Sigmar Polke among others, to the Pinakothek der Moderne art gallery. What’s more, because the duke was also one of the earliest collectors of works by painter and sculptor Georg Baselitz, that artist recently donated six paintings and a sculpture dating from 2008 to 2017, in honour of his patron. “The Donation” by Georg Baselitz will continue to be exhibited in the Pinakothek der Moderne art gallery until the end of next year.
The rotunda in the foyer of the Pinakothek der Moderne art gallery will be dominated by a gargantuan aubergine-coloured ball until the middle of August next year. There is no getting round it – with dimensions of 14 by 22 metres it fills the entire space, from the museum’s skylight dome, past the galleries and well out into the foyer.
Designed especially for the entrance to the Pinakothek, the sculpture was produced by one of the world’s most renowned sculptors: Anish Kapoor – or rather Sir Anish Kapoor, as the London-based, Indian-born artist received a knighthood in 2013, in recognition of his services to the visual arts. The piece is named “Howl” in reference to a famous Allen Ginsberg poem, a lament for the Beat Generation.
Pinakothek der Moderne: Anish Kapoor – Howl
A collaborative exhibition featuring works from the modern art collection in the Pinakothek der Moderne as well as the Sammlung Goetz collection will take visitors on a special journey through time and an exploration of 20th-century art. The “Au Rendez-vous Des Amis” exhibition will remain open until 28 March. It creates dialogue between classical modernist works, by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Franz Marc, Emil Nolde, Oscar Schlemmer and Francis Bacon, and pieces by the contemporary artists featured in the Sammlung Goetz collection. The exhibition demonstrates the complex ways that contemporary art has been inspired by previous generations of artists.
Pinakothek der Moderne: Au Rendez-vous Des Amis. Modernism in dialogue with contemporary art from the Sammlung Goetz
The Haus der Kunst art gallery is also collaborating with the Sammlung Goetz collection. Running until 14 April in the former air raid shelter below the museum is a multimedia installation by German photographer and film-maker Cyrill Lachauer, who was born in Rosenheim in 1979. The artist’s work is titled Cyrill Lachauer. I am not sea, I am not land. Lachauer uses films, videos, slide projections, sound installation, photographs and wall texts to highlight the tension that arises from the use of the term “land” to mean “home” on the one hand, but also “nation”, creating an association with exclusion.
Visitors to the exhibition will encounter people from all walks of life who are all connected by their status as border-crossers, including American migrant workers, diamond miners and a queer park worker in Yosemite National Park for example.
Haus der Kunst: Cyrill Lachauer. I am not sea, I am not land.
The main building of the Haus der Kunst is the venue for“Michael Armitage. Paradise Edict” – a genuine premiere. This exhibition will see art by young British-Kenyan artist Michael Armitage (born in Nairobi in 1984) exhibited in Germany for the first time ever. The artist lives between London and Nairobi and is known for his large oil paintings in rich colours, which bring together European and East African themes and painting traditions.
As one example of this Armitage paints on lubugo, a towel-like material made from the bark of a specific type of fig tree in southern Uganda, while the motifs and colours in his paintings draw on European painters such as Titian, Francisco de Goya, Édouard Manet, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Egon Schiele.
Haus der Kunst: Michael Armitage. Paradise Edict
The “Archives in Residence: euward Archive” exhibition, which will run until 25 April, is an absolute must-see. Since 2000 the Munich-based Augustinum Stiftung foundation has been presenting the euward (European Art Award) award, which promotes outstanding works by artists with mental disabilities. Works by both nominees and prizewinners will be exhibited in the Haus der Kunst art gallery again in 2021.
Haus der Kunst: Archives in Residence: euward Archiv
Located in the Kunstareal museum area and just a few minutes’ walk from the Pinakothek art galleries, the Lenbachhaus is currently hosting an exhibition entitled “Under the Open Sky. Travelling with Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter”. It showcases the works of the two most famous artists of the Blue Rider movement, and is set to continue until 6 June. Strictly speaking in fact, the oil sketches and photographs on display date from a time before the Blue Rider existed, when Kandinsky and Münter forged a close personal and artistic bond and went travelling together.
Travelling light and under the open sky, the pair spent years on the road, looking for the right means of expression for their paintings. They began in 1902 by exploring Munich’s environs by bicycle, before later taking in international destinations. Their artistic curiosity and the fact that they were able to freely live their socially unacceptable relationship (because Kandinsky was married to someone else) while on the road took them to the Netherlands, Tunisia, the Italian Riviera, Paris and finally South Tyrol.
What happened to female contemporary art after Münter’s death in the early 1960s? The Lenbachhaus art gallery is giving visitors an insight into this question until 1 August, with its “Looking at the Sun at Midnight” exhibition, which presents works created by female artists between 1958 and the present day. The paintings, photographs, installations, videos and performances explore questions of women’s equality as well as the relationship between the sexes.
The works also address, often in a radical manner, the topics of sexuality and female identity. The earliest of the pieces in this collection is by Austrian painter Maria Lassnig, who was born in 1919 and died in 2014. The exhibition hands the microphone to female artists across multiple generations, from 80-year-old media and performance artist and film-maker VALIE EXPORT, to Michaela Méliann, right up to 1970s-and 1980s-born artists Candice Breitz, Tejal Shah and Flaka Haliti.
Lenbachhaus: Looking at the Sun at Midnight
The Museum Brandhorst art gallery is also focusing on a contemporary female artist.
“Lucy McKenzie – Prime Suspect” (until 21 February) is the first comprehensive international show featuring works by Scottish artist Lucy McKenzie (born 1977), who lives in Brussels. In this exhibition too, themes such as gender politics, the place of women and the representation of the female body in art, architecture and fashion can be traced throughout.
There will be around 80 works on display, dating from 1997 to the present day and encompassing examples from all of the artist’s significant groups of works. The trained decorative painter is a graduate of the State Academy of Fine Arts Karlsruhe. In producing her installations, paintings and collages, she draws on a variety of genres without restraint, from painting and architecture to design and even folk art.
Museum Brandhorst: Lucy McKenzie – Prime Suspect
The 1920s are a particularly captivating decade for many in Germany at the moment, not least because of the popular crime series “Babylon Berlin”. The art of that decade is characterised by a certain cool, distant view of what is happening; presentations of a world without illusion and of the ugly everyday life of the cities. The Münchner Stadtmuseum museum is currently hosting an exhibition entitled “World in Transition: From Otto Dix to August Sander – Art of the 1920s” which illuminates these years of extremes and opposites.
Running until 10 January, it traces the artistic dialogue between the painting and photography of the decade and also underlines how early it was that artists were already “painting against” Hitler. The exhibition includes works by Aenne Biermann, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Hannah Höch, El Lissitzky and László Moholy-Nagy, among others.
Münchner Stadtmuseum: World in Transition: From Otto Dix to August Sander – Art of the 1920s
The “golden twenties” also ushered in the triumphal march of director’s theatre. This meant that plays were no longer simply learned by heart and “played from the page”, but were instead interpreted in a particular way which informed the entire production of the piece. “Regietheater. Eine deutsch-österreichische Geschichte” (Director’s theatre. A German-Austrian history), is an exhibition by the Deutsches Theatermuseum (which actress Sunnyi Melles described as being just as important as the internet).
It takes a closer look at the protagonists of this contemporary theatre approach, including directors such as Otto Brahm, Max Reinhardt, Fritz Kortner and Gustav Gründgens, as well as their contemporaries Peter Zadek, Peter Stein and Claus Peymann. These figures have always been accused of not being faithful to original works, and even today some theatregoers find the handling of dramatic scripts too disrespectful and high-handed. This chapter of theatrical history is illustrated with the help of set designs from theatres in Cologne, Vienna, Berlin, Salzburg, Saarbrücken and Munich. The exhibition will remain open until 11 April.
Deutsches Theatermuseum: Regietheater. Eine deutsch-österreichische Geschichte