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September 2, 2007 THE SUN-HERALD

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Art

Much to munch on
There’s more to Munich than beer and sausages. Erin O’Dwyer explores its scintillating gallery scene.

WATCH: Pinakothek der Moderne. Picture: Photolibrary.com

T

HOSE confounding Germans. Just when you think you can pick a kolsch from a pilsener, or a bratwurst from a blutwurst, they’ll want you to pick Beethoven from Bach. So when Germany’s new art gallery, Pinakothek der Moderne, opened in 2002 with much fanfare in Munich, old men in lederhosen wandered among the Warhols and Picassos and international art critics sniggered into their champagne. Silly them. Since then the black-skivvy set has swallowed its pride and the gallery has gained serious art cred. The New York Times believes the gallery has claim as one of the top art destinations in Europe. And The New Yorker has described the Moderne as a mega-boutique gallery – worthy of comparison to the Guggenheim and better than London’s Tate Modern. ‘‘One can view the creative wares of the 20th century, amid a lively debate over the nature of modernity,’’ the magazine gushed. In a city best known for its Oktoberfest, a multimillion-dollar modern art gallery might come as a surprise. It shouldn’t. There are now three Pinakotheken – the old, the new, and the modern – which make up Munich’s stunning visual arts precinct. Known as the Kunstareal, it offers visitors a virtual tour from the Middle Ages to now. To begin in chronological order, the Alte Pinakothek (from pinacotheca meaning picture gallery) has a who’s who of international artists from the 1400s to early 1800s. The German Albrecht Durer hangs near

Flemish painters such as van Dyck and Rubens. Also there is the Dutch master Rembrandt, the Renaissance artists Botticelli, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci, and their later compatriots Luca Giordano and El Greco. Next door, the Neue Pinakothek shows works of the 18th and 19th centuries once in the collection of King Ludwig I. Landscapes and historical paintings by the German Romance painters and pre-impressionists hang alongside later acquisitions from Renoir, van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, Rodin, and the Austrian Gustav Klimt. Big sister Moderne, costing A121million ($200million) and taking six years to build, sprawls across more than 50 rooms on three levels. Designed by German architect Stephan Braunfels, the building hosts four galleries in one – art, design, architecture and works on paper. It’s quite a sight to behold. The first floor, with skylights to display the works in natural light, features an unrivalled collection of German expressionists, including Max Beckmann, and painters from Die Brucke and the Blauer Reiter schools. Oskar Schlemmer, Lyonel Feininger, Lovis Corinth and Henri Manguin are all there. The surrealists are represented by Salvador Dali, Magritte, Picasso, Max Ernst and Giorgio de Chirico, and there are post-1960s works by Sigmar Polke, Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz and Willem de Kooning. Installations and pieces by Bruce Nauman, Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys complete the picture. Downstairs it’s a change of scenery. Architecture enthusiasts will find detailed drawings dating from the 1500s, and a series of 20th- century models that celebrate architectural feats, including the Sydney Opera House. The design quarter traverses art nouveau, the avant-garde of the 1920s, post-war functionalism, pop art design and the computer age. In its first weekend alone

100,000 people crushed through the doors, with 500-metre queues forcing a temporary closure. Within seven weeks the gallery had a record 500,000 visitors and in its first three months attracted 650,000 – the best visitor numbers of a new museum worldwide. Admittedly, Australians might be disappointed by the Euro-centric, maledominated and decidedly German take on art. There are few women painters and only one Australian: Bavarian State Collection deputy director-general Professor Carla Schulz-Hoffman recently bought 10 Tracey Moffatt photographics, which have been displayed alongside Sam Taylor-Wood and Rineke Dijkstra. ‘‘I always hoped that Oktoberfest was only one of the events Munich was famous for,’’ Schulz-Hoffmann tells me in her crisp, flawless English. ‘‘In terms of culture Munich is really enormous – you have lots of museums and galleries, castles and architecture – but what I always feel makes the charm of Munich is that everything is within walking distance.’’ Schulz-Hoffman points out the strong American presence but acknowledges that few English speakers are represented overall. The reality is that the gallery’s focus is on painting. And any canon of the past 100 years must, of course, start with Franz Marc, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Rene Magritte and Pablo Picasso. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Max Beckmann have entire rooms to themselves. Schulz-Hoffmann believes the enormous popularity of the museum is down to combining the four collections under the one roof. ‘‘We don’t try to show our paintings like a stamp collection, having one stamp or one painter from each country,’’ she says. ‘‘We try to focus instead on the major artists we have in the collection. We try to build up a dialogue to emphasise among fewer artists some of the problems in 20th-century art.’’

It’s not only the three Pinakotheken that are making a name for art in Munich. Other galleries in the Kunstareal include the Antikensammlung (antiquities collection), the modern art gallery Lenbachhaus and the newly housed HypoBank Kunsthalle, which since 2000 has staged several staggering exhibitions including 20th-century realism and Italian still-life painter Caravaggio. The highlight though is undoubtedly the Moderne. What it aims to do, it does well. It devotes space to the modern and lets the art speak for itself. Perhaps most precious is the Moderne’s collection of works on paper. Bavaria has 400,000 sheets dating from the 15th century. They were once shown periodically at the Neue Pinakothek. Now they are permanently housed in the Moderne, and the works include doodlings by Dali, Picasso, Marc, Klee and George Grosz. They are pieces the artists never expected to be framed and hung, yet offer an insight into how and why they worked. On one recent visit I found an intriguing collection of six postcards by Marc. They were painted while on holiday and sent to a friend. The intimate postcards, and the delight they created on every face that saw them, was a clear reminder of why even in dire economic times, a single city has poured millions into art for art’s sake.

>TRIP NOTES
■ Qantas flies regularly to Munich. To get to the art precinct take tram No.27 from Karlsplatz to Pinakothek or the U-bahn line U2 or U8 to Konigsplatz. ■ Standard entry: Alte ¤5.50 adult, ¤4 concession; Neue ¤4/3; Moderne ¤9/6. ■ Sunday entry: ¤1 for each museum. www.pinakothek.de.
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