It seems to be a given that museum visits are best taken on rainy days. Yet when the sun shines and temperatures are warm, it’s worth taking a trip to the cultural landscape of North Rhine-Westphalia — perhaps even by bike. However you get there, here we present the ten most interesting art destinations for the summer.
Waldfrieden Sculpture Park
In Tony Cragg’s “Rational Beings” sculptures, new figures reveal themselves at every glance: The Waldfrieden Sculpture Park in Wuppertal is certainly impressive. As are the temporary shows it hosts: this year will see exhibitions by Christiane Löhr (March 3 to July 1), Markus Lüpertz (April 28 to August 12), and Eva Hild (August 25 to January 27, 2019) take place. And even if you come in between exhibitions, the organic architecture of the Villa Waldfrieden, the woods, and the garden are always worth a visit.
The Langen Foundation, set up by collector Marianne Langen, is an attraction in itself with its minimalist architecture by Tadao Ando. Collector Karl-Heinrich Müller started developing a visionary project for the site in 1994 guided by the principle “Art parallel to nature.” A spring highlight is the cherry blossoms, whose pink buds reflect in the shallow water of the former NATO base. Nearby, the extensive grounds of the Museum Insel Hombroich are an inviting place to take a cultural stroll.
The Herzog & de Meuron architectural office turned the former granary in Duisburg’s inner harbour into a modern museum. The Ströher collection housed here is one of the most important collections of German art since 1945. The granary is currently undergoing a 2,500-square-meter extension led by the Swiss architects — the construction work should be completed in 2019. From June 8 there will be an exhibition of the work of Jannis Kounellis, pioneer of Arte Povera, an art movement of the late 1960s and 70s. A visit to Küppersmühle Restaurant is also highly recommended for its international dishes made with regional ingredients.
Collections of paintings and sculpture from the 19th century, classical modernism, post-1945 art, and photography: the Museum Folkwang is considered first class in the German scene. The new building, designed by David Chipperfield Architects, was inaugurated in 2010. Exhibitions showcasing the work of Hans Josephsohn, Luigi Ghirri, Hermann Kätelhön, Roland Topor, and Italian paintings of the 1920s are planned for 2018. First-time visitors should not miss the Villa Hügel and the Ruhr Museum with the Zollverein colliery — fragments of German industrial history.
A classic: situated in Cologne’s cathedral square, the Museum Ludwig houses one of the world’s largest Picasso collections and Europe’s most extensive pop art collection. This year sees exhibitions such as “Black Power — Flower Power,” photographs by husband-and-wife photographer couple Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch that convey the San Francisco of the 60s; “Doing the Document: Photographs from Diane Arbus to Piet Zwart”; and an exhibition about the documentary film “Filmemigration aus Nazideutschland” (Film Emigration from Nazi Germany) by Günter Peter Straschek. Afterwards, take a stroll along the Rhine to Cologne’s sculpture park, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Here you will see works by Anish Kapoor, Jenny Holzer, and Rosemarie Trockel.
Technically an outsider among the museums of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Museum Abteiberg in Mönchengladbach was nevertheless voted Museum of the Year by the German section of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) in 2016. The institution was built between 1977 and 1982, and due to its modest budget did not have the opportunity to buy works of art from the classical modern period. The focus here is more on current tendencies — Joseph Beuys had his first museum exhibition in Mönchengladbach. Art movements such as ZERO, Nouveau Réalisme, and pop art were shown as they emerged and works were purchased: Richard Serra, Andy Warhol, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, and Martin Kippenberger are represented in the collection. In addition, in 2002 the Abteiberg sculpture garden was integrated into the abbey garden.
Art alone takes centre stage at this exhibition house: the patron and collector behind the renovation of Haus Mödrath, a Cologne entrepreneur, remains anonymous. The former castle of Mödrath was intended to provide artists and curators with the opportunity “to be able to achieve what is important to them,” they write. The exhibition “Aftermieter,” which is curated by Veit Loers and shows works by Ed Atkins, Alicja Kwade, and Ali Altin, will be on display until November 2018. The house can look back on an eventful history as a manor house, maternity hospital, Nazi training centre, and children’s home. Its garden is shrouded in mystery: one theory is that it was designed by German landscape gardener Peter Joseph Lenné, who is also responsible for the gardens of Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam and the Tiergarten in Berlin.
Unsurprisingly, Düsseldorf — with its world famous art academy — is a centre for contemporary art. For example, the Julia Stoschek Collection presents outstanding video art, and the KAI 10 Arthena Foundation in the Medienhafen district with its Gehry buildings houses contemporary art. The KIT — Art in the Tunnel is underneath the Rhine promenade in the passageways of a pedestrian underpass. The Philara collection is also well worth seeing, as are the terrace and bar, which are works of art in themselves. Don’t miss the NRW Forum, the art collection of North Rhine-Westphalia with its K20 and K21 locations, or the Museum Kunstpalast — you’ll need to plan in a bit of time for Düsseldorf’s art institutions.
Four battlements, a high lookout tower, a castle moat, and grounds with many beautiful flower beds: Moyland Castle has a traditional, fairytale-esque layout. Voltaire and Winston Churchill count among its visitors and are commemorated in the form of two animal figures that border the entrance — a wolf and a pug. Today the castle houses the art collection of brothers Hans and Franz Joseph van der Grinten. Fans of art rebel and activist Joseph Beuys are right at home here: with around 5,000 pieces, it is the world’s largest collection
The Federal Art and Exhibition Hall (Bundeskunsthalle) in Bonn will be showing a major European retrospective of renowned international artist Marina Abramović from April 20. Her groundbreaking performances explore the limits of feasibility — both psychological and physical. Time and again, the exhibition house brings international greats to the former German capital. The three elegant, striking, tapered light beams on the roof are the focal point of the hall, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017.