Action art: more than 3000 oversized poppies at Königsplatz in Munich

Expert talk with Laura Schieferle

“The Kunstareal will never be finished, it is constantly evolving“

Located between Königsplatz (square) and Türkenstrasse, the district is home to numerous museums, galleries and universities. The area has witnessed rapid transformation in recent years. Laura Schieferle, branch manager of the Kunstareal München, elaborates on the significance of these changes for Munich and what visitors can explore here.

What do you think about when you go to work in the morning?

It fills me with joy every morning to experience the vibrancy of the Kunstareal. It is a quarter that teems with life. People not only reside, but also work and study here. They flock to this district during their leisure time. The numerous art and cultural offerings contribute to the lively urban cityscape. The Kunstareal is open in every respect – making it, in my opinion, the most exciting cultural hub in all of Europe. And it is constantly and rapidly changing.

Before we delve into these rapid changes, let's take a brief look back. How long has the Kunstareal existed as such?

That is a very complex matter. The origin of the Kunstareal can be traced back 200 years. In 1826, the Ludwig-Maximilians-University was relocated from Ingolstadt to Munich, in 1830 the Glyptothek (art gallery) was completed on Königsplatz (square), which then became something like the nucleus of the museum district, followed by the Alte Pinakothek (art gallery) in 1836. After that, there was a steady influx of museums, colleges, galleries and other cultural institutions. Today it comprises eighteen museums, six colleges and a wealth of galleries. Almost every building on the 500 by 500 metre site now houses one cultural institution or another.

Since when has the area been marketed as such?

This term first appeared a little over two decades ago with the inauguration of the Pinakothek der Moderne (art gallery). In 2009, the Pinakothek der Moderne Foundation then took the initiative to push for greater activation of the art area; the Free State of Bavaria and the City of Munich joined forces. Subsequently, close cooperation was established with the Chair of Urban Development and Spatial Planning at the Technical University of Munich. In 2019, the “Kunstareal Project“ received its perpetuation from the state capital and the Free State, and I have been running the office since 2020.

What has happened since then?

An incredible amount – despite a very challenging start: My term of office coincided with the early days of the corona pandemic. All of a sudden, all cultural institutions were closed. Eventually, they reopened, but with stringent hygiene measures and all that. Culture could suddenly no longer betaken for granted. That was very painful, but the absence also made many people aware of what exactly was missing – and underlined the vital role of art and culture in society. The individual houses worked flat out to be digitally accessible. In addition, the urban landscape has changed a lot.

What happened in this context?

The restaurants and cafés got more open spaces; pop-up cycle paths emerged on the streets. This has now become a permanent feature in Gabelstrasse, which is great. The use of the open spaces also increased significantly in the corona period – another trend that endured. What pleases me: The meadows between the museums host a variety of activities every day, from yoga and tai chi to kickboxing, tango and ball games. In 2022, as the lockdowns were gradually lifted, even more people flocked to the neighbourhood, driven by an insatiable curiosity and a yearning for culture and community. Notably, the Kunstareal stands out from other major cultural quarters in Europe. There is no reason to stay after the museums close for the day and these quarters empty out quickly. But the Kunstareal remains just as lively and vibrant in the evening as it is throughout the day.

Regarding the many innovations in the quarter: Which ones do you find particularly exciting?

I don't know where to start. But maybe with this: Over the past two years, two really impressive renovations have been completed in the Kunstareal. One of them is the Glyptothek. The art-historical significance of this gallery with one of the largest collections of antique sculptures doesn't need much explanation. The newly designed inner courtyard is another unique added value for visitors. In summer, it is no longer covered with ivy, but with roses and is used as an open-air stage for ancient theatre. The café there is open to everyone, not just those who pay admission to the museum. This, by the way, is a trend found in many other institutions here. The courtyard of the Glyptothek has become a peaceful oasis, perfect for a short escape, even if you only have half an hour. For me personally, it's one of the most beautiful places in Munich. The renovation of the Amerikahaus (America house) has been just as successful.

What can you tell us about that?

The Amerikahaus is generally a very exciting hub in Munich. Not only do readings and discussions take place here, the Amerikahaus also hosts excellent music events. I recently had the pleasure of attending a performance there by the renowned violinist Daniel Hope, which was truly fantastic. DOK.fest Munich shows exceptional documentaries here, and with the closure of the Gasteig cultural centre, the Amerikahaus also became the central venue for Filmfest München. This change was positively received by the visitors, because the central location invites them to move on afterwards. What truly impresses me about the Amerikahaus is the diverse orientation of its programme. It is not limited to the USA, but focuses explicitly on “The Americas“, which also includes Central and South America. In general, it has to be said that diversity is one of the great strengths of the Kunstareal.

In what respect?

The most visible institutions in the Kunstareal are of course the big museums, the Pinakotheken, the Museum Brandhorst (art gallery), the Lenbachhaus and so on. In recent years, however, the Kunstareal has also developed into the most important hotspot of Munich's gallery scene. Year after year, galleries either relocate to this area from other parts of the city or establish brand-new ones. This trend has had a profound impact on the district's vitality. But there is not only art here, there are also scientific institutions such as Museum Mineralogia and the Technical University with its very renowned architecture faculty and in the Pinakothek der Moderne you can find the Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum, where, among other things, an exhibition on robotics has already been shown. This means that a real exchange between culture and science is taking place in a very confined space, where the spirit of progress meets artistic creativity.

What will the Kunstareal look like in ten years?

I hope that the Kunstareal will be even better connected to the city centre. In the foreseeable future, the square around the entrance to the Von-der-Tann-Tunnel will be rebuilt. At present, it is still a very pedestrian-hostile alley, but the installation of a footbridge will remedy this problem. Additionally, the square in front of St. Markus will undergo a redesign, creating an inviting space for people to linger. In addition, a large installation by Alexandra Bircken is planned there, too. I am excited about this project, which creates a connection to the Kunstareal, because Bircken's works play an important role in the Brandhorst Collection. All this will further enhance the vibrancy of the Kunstareal. But another thing is also clear: There is no stage at which it can finally be called “finished“. The Kunstareal is in a constant process of development, going on and on.

 

 

Text: Nansen & Piccard; Photos: Frank Stolle
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