Colored Rods and Cy Twombly
von Sandra Hofmeister | May 27, 2009

36,000 ceramic rods in 23 colors positioned vertically on the facade - the new Museum Brandhorst in Munich gleams in iridescent colored surfaces, and the colors change depending on the viewer's perspective and vantage-point. "A large abstract image," suggests Louisa Hutton from the Berlin/London agency of Sauerbruch Hutton. The color concept is a joyful and shimmering gesture that has found a niche for itself between the buildings in Munich's Maxvorstadt and it follows the line of their eaves. After protracted arguments, the refreshingly unconventional crate of rods is a new addition to Munich's museum world, not only bringing great architecture (something that is not always a matter of course if one views the public buildings in the city) but also an impressive art collection that complements those in public galleries. The architects have consciously decided not to place the main entrance of the 100m-long new building facing the adjacent Pinakothek der Moderne, and it instead opens in the opposite direction, toward Schwabing. A decision that is meaningful if one considers the inadequate and still unsolved entrance situation of the Pinakothek der Moderne's stately architecture - not to mention that of the entire museum complex.

Changing exhibitions

The new building is home to the Udo and Annette Brandhorst Foundation Collection - paintings, video installations and sculptures from Kasimir Malevich to Cy Twombly and Damien Hirst. Only a small part of the total of 700 works is on show in the 3,200 square meters of exhibition space -Museumsdirektor Armin Zweite intends, after a transitional period, regularly to change the hangings to present the rest of the collection. The foundation has an annual acquisitions budget of some EUR 2 million - which contrasts sharply with the total budget for the state museums in the vicinity, which comes to merely EUR 40,000. "The acquisitions budget for the three sections of the Pinakothek is derisory," Armin Zweite scoffed in an interview. Large public institutions are not able to pursue meaningful collection policies given such conditions. Museums such as the Sammlung Brandhorst (and the building and operations are financed from public funds) have to offset the shortfall in public budgets and it remains to be hoped that Armin Zweite focuses on acquisitions that meet the standards of state museums.

Inside the museum, the bright lobby is followed by a spacious stairwell sculpted from Danish oak and accessing the ground floor, first floor and basement. The individual halls are arranged in a classical enfilade. However, Matthias Sauerbruch and Louisa Hutton took great care to create different spatial proportions and to place corridors such that no monotony arises. The rooms are all simply white, sober and restrained compared to the facade. They are as good as sealed off, blocking out the city outside and focusing firmly on art. In other words a White Cube with oak floors. Thanks to ingenious lighting designed by Arup London office daylight is redirected into the windowless rooms, and can be enhanced with artificial light as required.

Isaac Julien and Cy Twombly

Art is the main actor inside the building - and the architecture takes a back seat. The ground floor boasts Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, and the basement is home to Damien Hirst's pill installation "In this Terrible Moment" (2002). Alongside rooms for works sensitive to light, in which at present, among others, art by Mike Kelly is to be found, there are also dark boxes for video art - including Isaac Julien's impressive piece "Western Union: Small Boats" (2002) as an all-embracing media experience. The Belle étage will remain lodged unwaveringly in people's minds - it is dedicated exclusively to Cy Twombly. Marvelous, poetic panels spread out before you on the white walls - not mounted to close to one another, which is not exactly easy given the formats Cy Twombly prefers. For the Lepanto cycle, the architects custom-designed a room polygonal at the head of the building and its scale is tailored to the size of the canvases. It's an art event that corresponds to how viewers will experience the room - a fabulous blend of synergies. And the works he has produced in his dotage are a revelation: Cy Twombly has transformed his calm, poetic patina into floral motifs in bright colors reminiscent of Pop Art. The new loans from the artist even surprised collector Udo Brandhorst, who contacted the media-shy artist only to hear that the new direction was nothing other than what Twombly had been practicing for years.

This room alone is good reason to travel to Munich. The architecture of Museum Brandhorst and the Collection both offer astonishing treasures for us to discover, and catapult Munich as an art city into a new, contemporary era.

Museum Brandhorst © NOSHE
Museum Brandhorst © NOSHE
Cy Twombly Lepanto | 2001; Photo: Haydar Koyupinar © Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen | Museum Brandhorst München
Bruce Nauman Mean Clown Welcome | 1989; Foto: Friedrich Rosenstiel © VG-Bildkunst, Bonn 2008
Museum Brandhorst
Museum Brandhorst (left) and Pinakothek der Moderne
Museum Brandhorst © NOSHE
Museum Brandhorst © NOSHE
Museum Brandhorst with works by Andy Warhol; Foto: Haydar Koyupinar; © Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Museum Brandhorst München
Museum Brandhorst with works by Cy Twombly; Photo: Haydar Koyupinar © Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen | Museum Brandhorst München
Museum Brandhorst; Photo: Haydar Koyupinar; © Museum Brandhorst
Museum Brandhorst