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Munich, Museum Pinakothek der Moderne

Situated in the immediate vicinity of the Alte Pinakothek (art of the Old Masters to the 18th century) and the Neue Pinakothek (art of the 18th and 19th centuries), the Pinakothek der Moderne forms a troika with its predecessors.

The building itself, designed by the American architect Stephan Braunfels, is worth a visit, it has received only enthusiastic critiques. It’s an almost white building shell made of exposed concrete, it‘s unobtrusive, when you get near you have the feeling that it belongs, it has to be just the way it is. It‘s not show-offy and puts its neighbours into second file, although it has almost twice as much room value as the Alte Pinakothek, it seems much smaller, 1/3 of the museum is placed underground.

The interior is all white, white and light. We cross the floor of the rotunda, 30 m in diameter, look up at the glass dome, glance round to see how the whole museum is laid out and go down to the wardrobe and the toilets. Have you ever wanted to say toilets are elegant? Well, these are, they are dark grey with a wall high mirror and stainless steel wash basins.

Up again (there‘s a lift for the disabled and the tired), where to begin? When I was standing in the rotunda, the two enormous staircases running towards each other diagonally to the rotunda (or away from it, depending on your point of view), one up to the first floor, the other down into the basement, made the decision difficult. I wanted to start with the most modern art exhibits on the first floor, but somehow I was sucked down into the design museum.

A formerly independent collection for industrial design, started in 1925, occupies most of the basement, showing samples from the pioneers of design in the 1920s and 30s up to current developments. Being of a certain age can be an advantage! When I saw the exhibits of the post-war era, when functionalism was the latest craze, followed by biomorphological-organic forms, pop art, postmodernism and purism, I repeatedly couldn‘t but think "The times they are a-changing!" How funny, even ridiculous some things looked we had saved money for so that we could have them, too!

The piece of furniture which has inspired most designers is definitely the chair. Who says a chair is for sitting? Let‘s see the chair as a piece of art, unsittable, but lovely to look at!

I spent more time in the basement than I had planned, I hadn‘t foreseen the fascination of the exhibits. Now up the twin staircase to the first floor, what I‘m really interested in is contemporary art.

But I was a bit disappointed, maybe I‘ve been to too many exhibitions and museums lately. I saw the ubiquitous Andy Warhol and other pop-artists, Joseph Beuys, Georg Baselitz, Sigmar Polke and a video projection by Bruce Nauman, but there was nothing which seemed to make my two hour trip to Munich worthwhile.

The rooms on the first floor are all connected, strolling from one room to the next one wanders round the open rotunda. When I reached the so-called classic modernists of the first half of the 20th century, I was fascinated, rapt, enthralled! Not that I discovered new artists, but I saw many wonderful paintings I‘d never seen anywhere else before. Let me drop some names: Picasso, Braque, Max Ernst, René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, de Chirico, Max Beckmann, the German expressionists, Klee, Kandinsky et al.

The second floor contains some small sculptures, but people go up there mostly only to look down. I‘m not a great one for going up and looking down, but as there isn‘t a railing with lots of holes, but a low concrete wall, I ventured a peep. The floor of the rotunda with all the people moving around is like a colourful moving picture, very enjoyable. There are three tills for the tickets, the whole time I was there, the queues were of the same length. The museum has been a hit from Day One and more people have been there than to the New Tate in the comparable period of time.

The rooms behind the tills house the Museum of Architecture of the University of Munich, the opening exhibition examined the connection between construction, form and space by means of drawings, photographs, models and animations through models of the Glaspalast in Munich, the Sydney Opera, Munich‘s Olympic Stadium as well as exemplary projects from Le Corbusier and Daniel Libeskind.

I looked at all this only cursorily as I was getting tired, I couldn‘t concentrate well any more, and I noticed that I was dragging my feet. Well, I was satisfied, I had really seen enough for the entrance fee and thought of getting back to the station, when I rounded a corner and found myself in the graphics exhibition! Good God, I‘d like to steal half of the exhibits! Drawings, etchings and water colours from the Renaissance masters up to our times, wonderful!

After 3 1/2 hours I staggered out of the museum, I have to go back and see the Jewellery Room (which wasn‘t open yet when I visited) displaying contemporary jewelry design.

There‘s a well-stocked museum shop in the rotunda opposite the tills and a cafeteria, sinfully overpriced and sadly understaffed. The snacks are tasty, though, and the young men behind the counter good-looking, the latter fact making the wait rather entertaining.

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