Colourful, traditional, diverse – Munich’s city districts. “Out and about with...” offers very personal insights through the eyes of the people who live here and who know their districts best. This time: Laura Schieferle shows us around her Kunstareal.
I have invited Laura Schieferle to join me on today’s walk! She is head of the coordinating office of the Kunstareal museum area and will certainly be able to tell me a bit about it. On a beautiful warm spring day in late March, we stroll through the Kunstareal together and chat about its museums, her food tips, the places she most likes to experience art and the artwork she would take home with her – if she could. Out and about with Laura Schieferle!
Hello Ms Schieferle, it’s great to meet you. So what exactly is Kunstareal?
Good question! It is one of the largest clusters of cultural buildings in Europe, and it covers an area of 500x500 metres in Maxvorstadt, in the heart of Munich. Kunstareal is home to many institutions, 18 exhibition houses and museums, a plethora of galleries, cultural institutions such as the Amerikahaus centre for transatlantic relations, and also six universities and academies, as well as churches.
Exciting! What is so special about bringing together all these artistic and scientific institutions?
It is incredibly important because we do not consider this to be merely a museum quarter, but rather a consortium of art, culture and knowledge. To me, this interdisciplinarity is not just exciting but also vital because it makes it possible to open up so much more.
There is so much to discover here. Who would you particularly recommend the Kunstareal to?
Everybody, of course! But seriously, there’s something for almost everyone here – and perhaps that is sometimes a problem in itself. There are offerings for children, but also for seniors and people who visit museums very often and want to delve deeper. There are also graduation exhibitions held at the universities.
Where would you go again and again on what for you is a perfect Kunstareal day?
I would actually start at the Staatliches Museum für Ägyptische Kunst (State Museum of Egyptian Art). It’s one that is not so well-known to everyone, and as it is underground it may also be of interest architecturally. I took my children there just recently and they did a “Pharaoh hunt”. Many people don’t realise though, that as this museum deals solely with Egyptian art, there is a limited amount of time you can spend there – not because you’d get bored, but because the number of exhibits is very manageable. Then you can go to see something else afterwards.
We do not consider the Kunstareal to be merely a museum quarter, but rather a consortium of art, culture and knowledge.
We are sitting at Karolinenplatz! You chose this as the starting point for our walk. Why?
I like using this place as a starting point because it allows you to get a good idea of the Kunstareal in spatial terms: if you look at the Propyläen (Propylaea), you’ll see that there is only one set of traffic lights between us and them, which means it only takes around three minutes to get there. The route passes by the newly-renovated Amerikahaus on the left and the NS-Dokumentationszentrum (Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism), which opened in 2015, on the right; then there’s the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (Central Institute of Art History), the Abgussmuseum (Museum of casts of classical sculptures) and the Graphische Sammlung (graphic art collection) on the left and the Musikhochschule (University of Music) on the right. From there it’s just a matter of crossing the road to reach Königsplatz, in the centre of Kunstareal. There, on one side is the Antikensammlungen (State Museum of Classical Art), and on the other the Glyptothek art gallery – which has reopened after two years of renovations and is amazing, by the way. We would then walk past the Propyläen (Propylaea) and arrive at the Lenbachhaus art gallery. It is quite a short walk, but there is a lot to experience along the way even if only looking at the buildings from the outside.
If we were to walk in the opposite direction, we would pass the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen (University of Television and Film Munich), which is housed in the same building as the Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst (State Museum of Egyptian Art). The breadth of what you can begin to imagine even while sitting here is just crazy.
Kunstareal is part of the Maxvorstadt district – why does it fit in here so well?
Kunstareal has grown and developed over time, and Karolinenplatz been important in that process: this is the point that connects the Residenz palace with Königsplatz and Schloss Nymphenburg (castle). So the reason Kunstareal fits in here so well is because it is bounded by history. But what is special about Maxvorstadt and what makes it so important for Kunstareal? That’s something I actually noticed during the first coronavirus lockdown. I was walking through here and it occurred to me that something didn’t feel quite right ...
... It was a ghost town!
Exactly! All the young people had left because the universities were closed. These hordes of students who populate the streets, cafes and public places every day were notably absent. Maxvorstadt is distinctive for the young average age of its population.
We are just coming to the end of March 2021 and find ourselves looking back on a year of the pandemic. How have the last 12 months been, viewed from Kunstareal?
We had to learn a lot about flexibility and adaptability, but of course that was the same for everyone. Because Kunstareal does not plan exhibitions itself, we were not so badly affected by the postponement of individual exhibitions. Instead, it was important for us to spread the message that Kunstareal was still alive! I very quickly became aware of how much the individual institutions offered in the digital space. But who wants to click through so many individual webpages and offerings after a long day of working from home? With that in mind, we decided to enable people to view everything on offer directly, by visiting www.kunstareal.de. It was great to see how quickly the individual institutions got things up and running. This deep dive into digital communications has absolutely defined the last year for us.
We leave Karolinenplatz and walk through the grounds of the Pinakothek der Moderne art gallery and past the Pavillon 333 design-build project. Next we grab some coffee and cake to go, from Bici Bavarese on Türkenstrasse, before sitting down behind the Museum Brandhorst art gallery to enjoy them. Then we cross Theresienstrasse to look at one of Ms Schieferle’s favourite shops, Kremer Pigmente, and finally we make our way to the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen (University of Television and Film Munich).
We’ve also passed some art in public spaces during our walk today. Could you please tell us a little about Pavillon 333?
The pavilion is a temporary building which covers an area of 100 square metres and is located close to the Türkentor gate. It was set up last year by students of the Technical University of Munich in collaboration with the Museum of Architecture in the Pinakothek der Moderne. In future it will be used as a facilitation space.
Art is so important because it makes us think and helps us to re-evaluate things we encounter in everyday life. And of course, it also inspires us.
Do people like to see so much going on here in the public space?
Definitely! Kunstareal must not be considered like some sanctified place – it needs to be vibrant. People here can make sure that everything happens as part of a certain rhythm – that children can play here and volleyball courts are built. Public spaces should be in use by a wide variety of people around the clock.
Let’s talk about your work. Do you have a typical working day?
No, there is no such thing, which is what I find good and exciting about what I do. We do have project phases during which we work intensively on specific things, but I’ve never experienced a typical working day. Of course there are things that always need to be done – phone calls and queries or an editorial plan to be managed – but new ideas often pop up in the course of these communications, which means you can never predict just how the day is going to go.
This might seem like a very general question, but you can certainly answer it very personally: Why is art so important?
Because it makes us think and helps us to re-evaluate things we encounter in everyday life. And of course, it also inspires us. Aside from all that a great deal of art is specifically a feast for the eyes, so I believe that the element of aesthetics is not unimportant. Above all, it’s an opportunity to learn something about yourself. That’s true of all forms of art and not just the fine arts.
Thinking about all the paintings and other works of art that can be found here, which would you like to be able to take home?
I would treat myself to something from the modern art collection; I wouldn’t choose anything from the fine art collections because I really couldn’t handle having those kinds of great works. They belong in a museum where they can be seen, and not in a private house. There are a few pieces in the Design Museum that I would love to have at home though – and which I would use all the time if I did.
To finish, let’s move away from art. Where do you go for a glass of good wine or something tasty to eat here in Kunstareal?
I like to get lunch at Naum on Barerstrasse – I usually have one of their delicious bowls, as they are nice and light to eat. In the evening I would recommend the Vorhölzer Forum (the café is unfortunately closed since October 2021), which offered a beautiful view of Kunstareal. The various museums and exhibition houses also have great restaurant offerings, of course.
Thanks for the tips and the lovely walk!