This summer, I spent the month of June in the beautiful city of Munich, Germany for the Princeton in Munich study abroad program, studying German and immersing myself in the German language and culture.
A month is just long enough to catch a glimpse of a city’s wonderful cultural opportunities and attractions. On my way to class I would see posters and announcements plastered along the train station walls, publicity for new and ongoing museum exhibitions as I waited to cross the street at intersections, and concert promotions on large pillars located between sidewalks and bike lanes. Munich is a city of art and culture.
Before I arrived, I heard about the “must-see” museums to visit: the renowned Pinakothek (http://www.pinakothek.de) art galleries, as well as the Deutsches Museum, a monumental collection of planes, ships, computers, and more, mapping the technological evolution of Germany.
Although I did not have time to visit all five Pinakothek museums, the two I did end up seeing had plenty of stories conveyed and wonderful art to think about and appreciate.
The Alte Pinakothek houses works ranging from Raphael to Rembrandt and paintings by German old masters, such as Adam Elsheimer and Albrecht Dürer. I was in awe by the breadth of works shown in the gallery.
At the Pinakothek der Moderne, I found the multimedia exhibitions and sleek curating refreshing and inspiring. The “ZOOM! Picturing Architecture and the City” photography and video exhibit commenting on architecture in today’s social and global context briefly reminded me of Princeton’s “The City Lost and Found” exhibition, which also underlined some architectural solutions to the multifaceted social, economic, and political issues in the city.
Other exhibits at the gallery included contemporary furniture and design installations, but also modern art collections from the 1900s to present.
Actual size modern furniture items suspended in individual display boxes is only one installation that demonstrates the breathtaking, clear, and efficient curating at the Pinakothek der Moderne.
I also had the pleasure to see several works by Picasso and Matisse at the Pinakothek der Moderne.
Our Princeton professors actively encouraged us to visit art museums. They suggested a class visit to the Lenbachhaus (http://www.lenbachhaus.de), a small museum located at the heart of Munich’s “Kunstareal” (art area) near the Pinakothek museums. Sweet and homely, the Lenbachhaus represents a collection of paintings by regional artists with ties to Munich, contemporary art, and most remarkably, a large collection of works from Der Blaue Reiter (“The Blue Rider”), a group of artists, comprised of Alexej von Jawlensky, Franz Marc, Wassily Kandinsky, Marianne von Werefkin, August Macke, and Gabriele Münter who became pioneers of German expressionism.
From the multiple times I have visited Princeton’s museum, I have always circled around the section of Münter’s works, admiring her simple, yet intense style. Her partner, Wassily Kandinsky, created a portrait of her, which was on display at the Lenbachhaus.
I was reminded of Münter’s own self-portrait that currently resides in our museum. The eyes and expression are the same, but there is a different feeling to each piece. Seeing the two works side by side now, I would say it is up to the viewer to interpret the emotions and unspoken words between the artist and her lover, but also the artist and herself.
During my time in Germany, I was also able to see the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nürnberg, an immense collection that chronicles Germany’s history from prehistoric times to present.
Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that the American artist, Keith Haring, was featured at the Kunsthalle München museum. The museum collected many of his works and the exhibit, titled “Gegen den Strich” (Against the Grain) narrated his life story, beliefs, and values through his art.
I was also happy to see that the museums offered affordable entry prices for visitors and students of all ages (I especially benefitted because all visitors under the age of 18 received free entry to most museums). Likewise, classical music concerts, theater, and opera shows offered similar prices to students.
Accessibility to cultural opportunities is an effort I appreciate greatly. I am grateful for the Princeton University Art Museum—we are next to such a magnificent resource and connected to a community of interested individuals who love art. Our art museum is open and free for all to enjoy and I encourage anyone and everyone to stop by.
It has been an incredible experience living and breathing the arts culture of Munich. The museum experience in Germany will have a lasting impression on me; every exhibition holds a unique place in my memory. The museums in Germany have inspired me to continue sharing art with the people around me at Princeton. I cannot wait to be back on campus.
P.S. Check out Keith Haring’s Barking Dogs and Lightbulb on view at the PUAM now in the special exhibition “Collecting Contemporary 1960 – 2015.” More information about the exhibition can be found here: http://artmuseum.princeton.edu/art/exhibitions/1657