20 years of MMK – Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt. According to current Director Susanne Gaensheimer, however, it should really be called 20 years of the "Museum for Contemporary Art" in Frankfurt. She is right, of course, for the museum focuses less on "Modernism" and its art and more on art from the 1960s to the present day. Here, the emphasis is always on "the present day", even if the collection does begin with works from the 1960s. In the few years of its existence, the MMK has built up a unique collection and is now, with over 4,500 artworks, one of the world's major contemporary art museums. Its presentations always link current contemporary art to works from the collection, highlight connections, and bring to a wider public's attention more or less unknown artists who are role models for young artists, so-called "artists' artists".
Following a preparatory phase three directors have headed the museum and left their mark on the collection. The founding director was Jean-Christophe Ammann from Switzerland, who handed over the reins to Udo Kittelmann in 2002. In 2008, Kittelmann assumed the position of Director of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, and in January 2009 Susanne Gaensheimer became Director of the "slice of cake", as the museum is affectionately known in Frankfurt. As such it was her job to organize the 20th anniversary and at the same time provide a taste of what can be expected from a museum of contemporary art in the coming years.
The major anniversary exhibition provides a clear answer to this question: the museum is growing beyond its borders. It is natural for a living collection to constantly grow, for ever new works to be added, and for the network of references within the collection to become ever finer and more complex. In the last 20 years the space offered by the MMK, designed by Viennese architect Hans Hollein, naturally remained more or less unchanged, and thus the gap between the available exhibition space and number of works to be shown is becoming ever greater. From the outset the plan was to build an additional exhibition hall for temporary exhibitions. The city, however, did not have the funds, and Jean-Christophe Ammann had to make a virtue of necessity, which he managed marvelously with the concept of "a change of scene". Twice a year the presentation of the collection in the entire museum was thoroughly reviewed and revised. The alternating arrangements of artists' spaces (Ammann's concept involved always collecting entire groups of works by certain artists instead of individual pieces) gave rise to ever new facets and constellations.
Udo Kittelmann defined exhibition spaces in the museum himself and organized temporary exhibitions, solo shows by artists such as Taryn Simon and Hans Josephsohn and of course the legendary exhibition with objects the director purchased himself on eBay. Susanne Gaensheimer sought to once again work more with the collection itself, as demonstrated by her exhibitions on focal points of the collection. Now, on the occasion of the museum's 20th anniversary, she wanted to display the entire collection at once for the very first time, and to this end has for a limited period of time rented 4,000 square meters in the former Degussa buildings on the banks of the River Main. A real coup, for now the MMK has joined the many other museums along the banks of the Main and can also boast a terrace offering many a pleasant hour with a view of the river. Not to mention the tongue-in-cheek glance across to the Städel Museum, where 3,000 square meters of space for post-1945 art is currently under construction.
Now the exhibition is open and the wait is over. The eagerly anticipated terrace, designed by Tobias Rehberger, affording a view of the Main is bright orange and so big that you can almost take an afternoon stroll on it in the manner of ladies and gentlemen of times past. Here people move in a way that is half anonymous and half showy; they amble along or stand in small groups. The sheer presence of the terrace seems to almost top the superb view of the river. And the orange of the floor, tables and benches contrasts wonderfully with the gray façades of the former Degussa buildings.
In the building itself a series of highly diverse spaces has been created to showcase the MMK collection. There are small closets, open spaces leading into one another, halls for large installations such as the vases in "Ghost Gu Coming Down the Mountain" by Ai Weiwei and Serge Spitzer, and Stephan Balkenhol's 57 penguins, long missed by the public. The video works too come into their own in the building's former offices, almost forming black boxes by themselves.
In the central MMK hall visitors are greeted by a glowing yellow. Here, Michael Beutler has created a space-filling installation whose color projects onto the entire space and the visitors. Like Tobias Rehberger's café "Mailand, Moskau, Dubai, Singapur, Tokio", which was installed in the building for the exhibition, the work "Outdoor Yellow" joined the collection last year on permanent loan from Commerzbank. This is the first time both works have been installed for the MMK.
Susanne Gaensheimer did not manage to realize her goal of showing the entire MMK collection at once. Despite the extra space, only about 40 percent of the collection is on display, though this is significantly more than the ten percent that can usually be shown. The fact that the opportunities offered by the additional space would whet appetites was to be expected, and indeed, at her opening speech in the "Römer", Susanne Gaensheimer naturally expressed her wish for an extension to the MMK. This is understandable, especially as the extensive anniversary exhibition has demonstrated that it is certainly worth allowing the collection to unfold in all its splendor.