Only two hours free on Thursday morning, and I hiked myself to the Danube and into Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf to gawk at mediæval art. I wasn’t quite sure what I’d be seeing; the museum presents itself as “5 museums in 1”: the Gallery of Paintings, with works from the 15th to early-20th century; Modern Art for everything after that up ’til now; Prints and Drawings from the Baroque on; Sculpture and Applied Arts; and the Hentrich Glass Museum. As well, there’s the Rubens’ collection. I headed for the mediæval stuff first (as usual in its own post). Here is everything else, minus the some of the Modern Art (was in a wing I didn’t make it to), and minus the Prints and Drawings (not even sure where that was). Anyway I’d run out of time even if I knew where I was going.
The museum is a beautiful, wide and low u-shaped series of dark brown brick buildings of that particular late-’20s style, long, terraced horizontals, with a broad central park promenade. One can enter the left wing to see the older collections, or the right to see the newer and temporary exhibitions. Seeing it’s winter, and continuing my streak of visiting museums with are only half-open, there was some of this here too. (But the museum is always open on Google Maps!)
Entering the left wing, the entire wall opposite glows with Johan Thorn Prikker’s stained glass windows. It’s difficult to grasp size in a photo, but the lowest, largest row is around 5 metres high. Actually the order of the photos here bears scant resemblance to the path I wandered through. Nonetheless, off to the glass collection. There was a glass fibre goat I wanted to see. Disappointment, that section not open (Who cares? See it on Google Maps baaaaaa!). This collection is half archaeological, with pieces in the basement thousands of years old, Roman, Byzantine, of course Mediæval and Renaissance … I laughed at the German Phallusgläser, deep green cock and balls bottles. Also the one I forgot to photograph the caption of, with spread-legged, large-breasted, winged creatures etched around the body of the vase. Many of the works were in parts not open for viewing, including most of the contemporary stuff. Jutta Cuny’s Grand Affrontation — Pénétration was one I could see, thick sand-blasted blocks of ocean-green glass. To be honest though, I skimmed through this collection.
Outside, part the dry fountain and across to the other wing, up to the top floor and into the Modern Art collection, I was doing this all sideways. German Expressionism, Brücke, Blaue Reiter, an amazing small collection of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner figurative works, others by Wassily Kandinsky, cubist works overblown with cross-processed colour, green, pink, blue skin, makes me think my next museum visit in Berlin will be seeing this stuff. An op-art piece by Bridget Riley, massive and square, even the photo causes my eyes to wrinkle.
Six lithographs by Willy Jaeckel, Memento 1914/1915, which look so much like Goya’s Disasters of War, and probably some of the last documentary or journalistic art before the camera superseded drawing. Many of the larger works wealthy family portraits, landscapes I found conservative and dull, also caused by the unexpected sliding into the Gallery of Paintings. As usual many were impossible to photograph with all the light bouncing around. A couple here though. Then I found myself in the Baroque and Rubens’ rooms, which I’ve confusingly put in the mediæval art post.
Exiting the way I came in, the atrium on the right side has no stained glass windows but a massive 3-storey installation by Gerda Steiner & Jörg Lenzlinger, The Autonomic Nervous System, which I had to ignore the attendants shoe-ing me out to photograph. It’s far more delicate and sparse than the photo suggests, all that detail spread through a 6 metre depth.
Ja, so, feels a little strange to blog on non-mediæval art, what to say, what am I looking at, lack of context and knowledge. Lack of time also. I almost ran, skidded, catapulted through the last rooms, looking with camera instead of eyes, then dashing back to tanzhaus nrw for Thursday’s rehearsal and run-through. Anyway, pictures!
Thursday morning (well, lunch-ish really) and a couple of spare hours. I’d been planning this for weeks. Off to Düsseldorf’s Museum Kunstpalast to look at mediæval stuff. And other stuff. Lots of stuff. Blogged that other stuff here. It’s a very pretty museum.
The mediæval and renaissance art sandwiched all the other collections, split as it was by various closed parts, instead of walking a chronological route from 1000 years ago to the last decade. I kinda feel this obedience to chronology enforces one unique, right way to experience a museum, which breaks down when that path is closed (like here), or for people like me who habitually wander where-the-fuck-ever my attention pulls me causes a general tension and something like disapproval of the “There’s no right way to visit a museum, but: You’re doing it wrong!”
To me combining mediæval and renaissance art doesn’t feel so dischordant; it goes together as a long and diverse continuum that the enlightenment, or say post-1750’s art and culture decisively differs from. Mostly I was here for the mediæval stuff. Give me 1350s paintings and sculpture or even better, 1250s! I wasn’t expecting a large collection, but hoping for a few new things, maybe a difference in style or subject matter, Düsseldorf being more connected with Belgium and Netherlands than Berlin and it’s southwards history with Czech, Hungary, eastwards with Poland. I was also hoping for some pre-13th century stuff, that square, blocky style leaking over from Byzantine art and presaging mediæval art proper. It’s so rare to see that I have a feeling I need to see more to make sense of the later stuff.
First then, an beautiful, flowing, arabesque woodwork piece, Stammbaum Christi, the Family Tree of Christ, it’s a really fine, late piece, glorious detailed composition and carving. A total winner to start with. Next is an odd choice, being so near to the first (in location and age), and so different, Lucas Cranach der Ältere Das ungleiche Paar. I like Cranach, probably a bit obvious, but who cares? This is such a lecherous, grotesque piece, his toothless gaze and her detached half-smile.
Around the corner, Zwei Engel from Southern Germany, they were so pretty on the wall and I did think I could get them out the front door if I was fast enough. Thronende Madonna is one of the earlier pieces, along with Kruzifixus and even Thronende Muttergottes retains some of that early style I seem to be drawn to at the moment. Blocky, simple, longer faces and almost abstract eyes, a heavy vertical weight and line. And the expression on Jesus’ face in Kruzifixus, such an exceptional, poignant piece. Stylistically opposite is Muttergottes and Marienklage Pietà, which take the International Gothic Style to an extreme. In the former, Mary’s s-curve is so highly exaggerated, much more so than the photo looks, her pelvis isn’t remotely attached to her knees or shoulders, and Jesus is not merely a baby in her arms, but leaps, flies off in the other direction. Likewise in the Pietà, a far smaller piece, Mary leaps at the fallen Jesus, her robes flowing like a superhero’s cape. I’ve not seen anything comparable to this movement, energy, and lightness in similar works in Berlin or further east.
I’m dancing around the Oberrhein Flügelaltar. I approached it from the back, seeing the painting on the central panel, not brilliant, but nonetheless I thought it boded well for the other side, and in any case I’m always up for some female saints. The other side though. Completely not what I expected. If the original polychromy was there, then perhaps, yes, but the bare lime wood, stripped of colour and polished, glowing in the light, with the Adoration of the Magi in the central panel. I made a lot of noise.
It’s about 3 metres long and 160cm high. The outer wings probably carved by a different person, though still with fantastic detail, and show on the left the Adoration of the Child by Mary and the Circumcision, and the right the Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand and the Holy Family. That centre panel though, cute as baby Jesus is pawing the face of that one Magi it’s the upper-left third dominated by the black Magi and his servant, his delicate fingers taking the crown, the stance of his body and the parallel folds of his clothes, maybe it’s not so obvious in the photo but this winged altar is entirely about him. Maybe also when it was painted, the colours moved the eye across the image in a different way, but as it is, it’s up there with the Gemäldegalerie’s St Mauritius.
Once I’d stopped hyperventilating over that, I wandered face-first into Abraham Janssens I’s (Janssens van Nuyssen) Die Sibylla Agrippina. It’s so far in my museum-ing rare for me to see black women in mediæval or renaissance art as primary subjects. Partly this is because of the black magi tradition on Germanic art, but also women when they do appear tend to be in the background. I think most of the works I’ve seen have been later historical or mythological ones, where the women are servants, entirely unlike this one, a full portrait, around 150cm high, no other person or distraction in the frame (and as usual for large and tall paintings, it was a beast to photograph, glare from the lighting blowing out the top quarter, so I ended up assembling it from three separate images).
Then in another room, after the break of all the other stuff, there were the oil painting sketches, which became a style of their own. Some of these, like Domenico Zanetti’s Studie einer Fama I find simply beautiful, more so because of the damage. Joseph Anton Feuchtmayer’s Putto is not so much beautiful as diabolical. I know on close look the pink blotches are meant to represent rosy cheeks, but from a slight distance they look like glowing alien laser eyes. Attached to drunken, chubby winged monsters.
There was a couple in the Rubens’ room also. The two Die Allegorie “Kuss von Gerichtigkeit und Frieden” which are basically renaissance lesbian porn. There was also another massive Adoration of the Magi, but the light for that was out, and no amount of photo editing is going to help. Lastly, there is Lodovico Mazzanti’s Der Tod des hl. Franz Xaver, whose death in real life off the coast of China in 1552 after nearly 12 years sailing around India and South-East Asia is remarkable enough in itself. I’m really not sure what’s going on in this painting, done almost 200 years later, especially the feathered crown. Context. Works of art need context and explanation, especially old stuff.
I pretty much threw myself out after that, really cutting it fine to get to the theatre. Enough! Pictures!
All within three minutes of Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof. After that, I lost the will to take photos, packed myself into the seat opposite Isabelle, drifted through the clack-clack whirrr spooling up and down of electric motors, bursts of sun, tattered patches of dim grey rain, ate, read, slept, arrived in Berlin.
What have I been doing the last two weeks with Isabelle, and the last week in Düsseldorf (besides eating)? Well, after warming up with Isabelle (Qigong-ish, Taichi-ish Aikido-ish stuff for an hour, getting me pretending I’m training in Legend of Korra world), it’s watching talking, generally being assistant, now also operating lights and sound for An Un-Folding Process. Today we had a run-though with a bit of an audience, some of tanzhaus nrw plus one child. Also a photographer, Andreas Endermann. My hands and brain turned out to be too tied up in pushing buttons and faders and I completely forgot my own camera sitting there, so these are something of what it looked like.
Sunday afternoon and Monday (eaaarly!) at tanzhaus nrw: Isabelle Schad! (and me if you wanna see me after.)
“An Un-Folding Process / Kids”
As part of the series Kleine Monster
Sun 01.03. 15:00 + Mon 02.03. 10:00
Here everything seems to change all the time! Surrounding herself with panels of fabric the Berlin choreographer Isabelle Schad creates fascinating images. Is this a cage, a ball or even a dress and the human figure inside a cartoon character? She shows us how exciting an expedition to the human body and its relation to space can be. Starting from a lecture performance at tanzhaus nrw in the summer of 2014 where she showed excerpts from her piece Unturtled 1 – 4 and Der Bau came the idea to develop a new version for children.
It was impressive to see how the relations between body, movement, image, representation, between form and experience gain a life of their own through fabric, movement and humor. Kafka´s novel Der Bau inspired Isabelle Schad just like Rilke´s description of the works of Auguste Rodin, stating that he did not sculpture the body but the space around the body.
Working with the artist Laurent Goldring, Isabelle Schad searches for “constellations of forming” in her “pieces of change”, says the journalist Susanne Foellmer. Schad presented Der Bau at the Tanzplattform Deutschland in 2014 in Hamburg, one of the most important national dance events presenting the twelve most outstanding productions from the last two years from Germany.
Concept, choreography: Isabelle Schad, Laurent Goldring
Performance: Isabelle Schad
Artistic Assistant: Frances d’Ath
So far: 1 train journey; 4 days in the theatre rehearsing; 1 museum (just you wait, mediæval art of Düsseldorf!); 3 times in the Chinese restaurant eating hand-made noodles; once in the Portuguese restaurant; many, many coffees; 1 run-through today (with one child in the audience (no, not me)); many warmups with Isabelle; quite a few wines; one grappa; a lot of rain; today, this afternoon some sun; a lot of dance all over the place.