With his design for the Museum für Moderne Kunst Hans Hollein has accomplished an unusual architectural feat. He has succeeded in creating a triangular building which not only fits neatly into the triangular space available to him, but which is an experience to discover, and leaves a lasting impression on the visitor.
Very few people who enter the »slice of cake« have any idea of what the building looks like from the inside. The architecture is characterized by a succession of elements linking the different exhibition rooms – namely a series of passages offering varying perspectives on the rooms themselves. What gives the architecture dramatic tension is the relationship between the individual rooms, their proportions, and the particular forms of lighting used throughout the building.
Because the ground-plan of the building itself is so idiosyncratic, the rooms at the MMK, around 40 in total, are so individual in layout that it is difficult to compare them with the rooms in any other museum building.
The reactions of visitors to the museum have been extremely positive. When we received a visit from Raul de Keyser, the Belgian artist, he later told us that this was the first time he had been able to stand being in a museum for longer than one hour. To his amazement two hours had elapsed by the time he came to leave the Museum für Moderne Kunst. This demonstrates just what a stimulating effect can be produced by a high standard of architecture and a museum layout which allows for interplay between the viewer, the artists and their art.Collection
The beginning: in 1981 the City of Frankfurt acquired a number of outstanding American and European works of art dating from the 1960s. They had originally formed a key part of the collection of Darmstadt industrialist Karl Ströher, who died in 1977.
Karl Ströher was a collector with vision, and had not only acquired individual works, but also whole groups of works by one artist: for example by such American artists as Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein, Walter De Maria, Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol. His collection also included the work of prominent German artists such as Joseph Beuys, Blinky Palermo, Reiner Ruthenbeck and Franz Erhard Walther.
The Pop Art section of the Ströher collection was acquired in its entirety by the MMK, which complemented it with individual works by Tom Wesselmann, Jim Dine, George Segal, James Rosenquist, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.
After a second segment of the Ströher collection was acquired in 1982, the City of Frankfurt was thus in possession of a total of 84 works of modern art. These form the backbone of the Museum für Moderne Kunst collection.On the exhibition of the Collection
Initially, we faced the problem of how to make the transition from the 1960s to the present day. If we had opted for a gradual progression from one period to the other, it is quite possible that we might never have reached our goal. So, for us, this left only one alternative: since we already possessed one »bridgehead« in the form of our 1960s collection, we decided to make it our aim to acquire contemporary art to create a second "bridgehead".
Bridgeheads cry out for a bridge to unite them. And we use the term »bridges« to indicate artists who have continued to work on a project intensively over a long period of time (around 25 years) and whose oeuvre remains highly relevant to the 1990s. Artists of this caliber represented in the Museum für Moderne Kunst include Bernd and Hilla Becher, On Kawara and Gerhard Richter. Of course
the term »bridge« can be applied equally well to other artists, artists such as Bruce Nauman, even though his work does not extend over such an extended period. But, to use concrete examples, Bernd and Hilla Becher’s photo series stretching from 1961 to 1991 fills one room.
Another contains On Kawara’s Date Paintings, which also span a long period of time, from 1966 to 1991. Yet another room houses Gerhard Richter’s 18.Oktober 1977 (October 18, 1977) cycle, which had been guaranteed to us until the year 2000, and which led on from the earlier works from the Ströher Collection.
The »Contemporary Bridgehead« can be subdivided into a middle-aged and a younger generation of artists. Works of the middle-aged generation represent a necessary foundation to this section, both as a counterpart to the »1960s bridgehead« and by serving to place the works of the youngergeneration in context. This foundation must be continually built upon. This part of the collection consists of works by Anna and Bernhard Blume, Siah Armajani, Jeff Wall, Nam June Paik, Christian Boltanski, Rémy Zaugg, Peter Roehr, Charlotte Posenenske, Joseph Beuys, Bruce Nauman, James Turrell, Lothar Baumgarten, Mario Merz, Alighiero Boetti, Hanne Darboven, Reiner Ruthenbeck and Ilya Kabakov.
The younger generation artists include Julian Schnabel, Stephan Balkenhol, Francesco Clemente, Günther Förg, Bill Viola, Reinhard Mucha, Katharina Fritsch, Jochem Hendricks, Axel Kasseböhmer, Rosemarie Trockel, Thomas Ruff, and Manfred Stumpf. We also possess groups of works by Albert Oehlen, Herbert Hamak, Andreas Slominski, Udo Koch, Cecilia Edefalk, Miriam Cahn, Beat Streuli, Urs Breitenstein and Bernhard Härtter. Art is not just a display of skill, it is something produced by an individual as an artist. When we decide in favor of a particular work of art, what we are actually doing is making a decision in favor of a particular artist. This alone makes it possible to create a meaningful group of works by one artist, either by acquiring a number of works by one and the same artist at a particular point in time, or by collecting individual works, piece by piece, over a longer period of time. In our opinion, groups of works are important as a means of illustrating the individual artist’s creative approach, something a single work cannot in general achieve. One notable exception to this rule is provided by the kind of works which, so to speak, contain a multitude of smaller works, or by the type of works which, in their very nature, contain the notion of time, as is often the case with installations. (Paik, Viola, Turrell). Such works are largely »self-explanatory«.
Since the opening exhibition in 1991 there have been 20 so–called »Changes of Scenes« at the Museum für Moderne Kunst. Taking place every six months, each Change of Scene created surprising encounters and juxtapositions. In 10 to 15 rooms works of our collection, more recent acquisitions and selected works on loan were newly installed.
The advent of a new director, Udo Kittelmann, saw the MMK launch a new program. Special temporary exhibitions are now mounted regularly to complement the standing collection presentation, making for a permanent shift in perspective. After all, it is the interaction between new and earlier acquisitions that keeps the museum fresh, bringing the individual works of art into play or making for a new order, so that they are permanently updated and do not distance themselves from current and future designs for living.
The collection and its works are the event which makes the museum what it is.
Alongside the permanent collection and the special exhibitions there are what we call the »Satellites« – a concept unique in the context of a museum. The »Satellites« are rooms allocated a specific function. The following rooms function as satellites: the Archive, the Children’s Room and the Dornbracht Installation Projects®.
The Archive: Every museum is an archive. Here, the subject of the link between museum and archive is addressed in a room specially designed for the purpose. But the focus here is not on our own archived collection inventory. Instead, every year we will be inviting to the museum an outside archive to which the public otherwise only has restricted access.
The Children’s Room: Every year, an artist will mount a different exhibition especially for children. The aim: to create the kind of exhibitions that will cater to children’s natural, intuitive pictorial perception.
The Dornbracht Installation Projects© is the name given to the collaboration between the MMK and the Dornbracht corporation (www.statements.de), the renowned Iserlohn-based maker of high-end bathroom fittings. Initially scheduled for four years, the program features support each year for a specific position in contemporary art displayed in the installation area.
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