28 October 2015

Dienstag und Mittwoch, 27 und 28 Oktober 2015


One thing I've noticed here in München, is that at the end of the meal when we have asked for die Rechnung, we are always greeted with "Zusammen?" (Together?), something that would never be asked in San Francisco. Yes, indeed, we are together, and what a delightful trip this has been. Here is Arthur in der Hofgarten, as we make our way to the Bayerisher Nationalmuseum on Prinzregentenstraße. It turned out to be a very interesting collection and experience. On our way there however, just after Haus der Kunst, there is a brief bit of der Englishergarten, with a rushing stream. As we crossed over it, we never expected this:

There were about seven young men all hanging ten on this little river in the middle of Munich. Quite amusing. The museum, however, thrusts you into a different world.

Here is the banquet service of the prince-bishop of Hildesheim, all silver. This is when you realize that the whole nature of Christianity has changed (at least in some places) and that a whole new set of values seems to obtain. The collection of baroque and rococo artifacts here is amazing, and I'm not quite certain as to why I find it so fascinating. Even the human form becomes subject to a kind of "twisted" and heightened reality.

Like cubism, impressionism, and all the other isms, it attempts to get beneath the surface of human existence and to reveal something beyond. This "problem" has been explored quite deeply here in Munich, and some later thoughts about realism, "degenerate art", Nazism, and more about granularity will follow.

The medieval collection is quite good as well, with vestments, ivories, woodwork, and stained glass, all of which strive to do the same thing - to get at the reality behind the story - the human story. There is an amazing collection of krippen as well, and a rather large one at that. It surprised me to see "krippen" that depicted the passion as well as the flight into Egypt and the slaughter at Bethlehem. People were working to see and understand the story.

We had a wonderful lunch at the museum, one of the best. Another plus was that the museum was largely empty, so we moved at our leisure.

It's now Wednesday, and we have saved something special for last - Pinakothek der Moderne. Gathered with the Altes, the Neues, and the collections at Königsplatz, it provides a strong artistic center to Munich. The Neues is closed right now for some repairs, and I was sad that we would have to miss it. I wanted Arthur to see it as he has not been there. We've been to the Altes, with its wonderful collections of Dürer and Cranach, so we made the time for something that we hadn't seen, the Moderne. 

One special exhibition was on "Entarte Kunst", or "Degenerate Art", an exhibition put together by Adolph Ziegler, the artist of the Four Elements above, (one wag called him the "master of German pubic hair"). The picture hung in the sitting room of der Führer Haus, just a few meters away down the street. The Moderne had gathered together several pieces to highlight this exhibition which was to highlight the exhibition of German art that opened the Haus der Kunst. Two contrasting pieces (along with others) were used by the Moderne to highlight the dialogue between the two approaches.

The one contrasting piece was Max Beckmann's The Temptation of Saint Anthony which was included in the degenerate art exhibition and shows how different the two approaches were. The other piece that was hung in contrast to Ziegler's piece was Francis Bacon's Crucifixion

I am fond of both Bacon and Beckmann, but the Bacon work slips well beyond its title and our understanding of that story and how it relates to life. It was a marvelous room of contrasts and I enjoyed it very much. There were also a fine collection of Blaue Reiter pieces, especially interesting after our visit to Lehnbachhause. One disappointment was that I could find nothing by Franz Kline.

This was a concept car from the 30s, and I could not get enough of it. There is a wonderful design collection at the Moderne, including computers, furniture, business machines, lamps, and the usual ceramics and metalwork. This next piece amazed me as well for its sheer beauty.

Radio transmission equipment

There were also a large collection of video works, which artists I did not recognize. One, by Rineke Dijkstra, was a video of people at the Buzzclub in Liverpool, England. It brought granularity to a new height. I found myself watching the movements of someone listening to music and looking at each hand gesture, facial expression, and clothing. It was embarrassingly intimate.

I'd like to talk about machines for a second, and I hope I have the ability to express myself here. At the Deutsches Museum, and here at the Moderne there were large collections of instrumentation and machines. Each represented a stage of our development as a people who manage our world and our environment. What became engaging for me was "the ghosts" in each machine, i.e., the people who worked to get us to that point. As we were looking at early computers, the guts of which were displayed for us, Arthur talked about how his father described early computing as (I think he said) "rings and wires." The machines were silent, but you could still sense their power - especially when I looked at the Enigma machine.

And what's really odd, troubling, or wonderful, is that these machines can either divide us (granularity) or bring us together. 

Arthur always looks out for my best interest. On our walk home he discovered, on a map, a Klöster in the neighborhood in which we are staying - Herz Jesu. And there it was with its silence and beauty. As a result of that discovery, across the street was a new restaurant, Noun. It was one of the best meals that we have had here - I recommend it highly. 

Now to bed, and on the morrow to pack.

26 October 2015

Montag, 26 Oktober 2015


Last night we popped into Rischart for (what I hoped would be a mocha) a quick snack. Es gibt kein Mocha in Deutschland - Schade. What we got instead was a quite interesting conversation with our waitress (something of a world traveler) who had interesting comments about Bavaria and München. "It's not the same", she said to us. "Everything is changing - it's all the people from the northern part of Germany and what they want." It sounded familiar, and I quickly recalled our lunch partner (from Hamburg) on Wednesday who had some disparaging things to say about Bayern - "Sehr katolisch!" Today I began thinking about these women's comments, and after a visit to the Astronomy section of the Deutsches Museum suddenly had a thought about "granularity". To explain: the exhibit helped to break down matter into its granular and constituent parts, helping the visitor to see what it is that we're all about.

A visit to the planetarium (above - notice the Zodiac) helped as it drew us out and away from our galaxy to see greater structures, and then pulled back in. I once saw this video on FaceBook that helped. Click here to see it and be certain to skip the ad. Later on in an exhibit called "Nanowelt" the same granularity was sought. What struck me is that we often think of nation states, and indeed cultures as being monolithic, or homogeneous. I think that they're not - that they're more granular. Hearing Germans make distinctions and judgments about themselves, and knowing how people in the  United States divide and polarize, makes me realize that to know a people, or indeed our selves we need to seek a certain level of granularity - knowing our constituent parts. 

Door handle at Sanktlukaskirche

The other day I wanted to write a piece on public art, and might do that later. With my thoughts on granularity, however, I wanted to share with you small things that make it delightful to live in a city, or anywhere for that matter. I hope that you enjoy them.

Small fountain in front of an apartment house.

Door to military complex on Prinzregentenstraße

Door handle at Michaelskirche

Door handle on Office Building

Bronze insert on door at Herzjesukirche

Property marker in the neighborhood near Nymphenburg

Isn't it interesting that it's the little things that keep life both interesting and complicated. 

25 October 2015

Sonntag, 25 October 2015


Three experiences, today on a Sunday, made it to the surface of my brain. The first was, what seems to be, a perpetual visit to the baroque splendor of Asamskirche in Munich. It is simply over the top, or suffused with a sense of decoration and interpretation. One could dismiss the decoration as affect, but the space is suffused with the Holy. It is brought forth by the Asam brothers over and over again, and even in their masterpiece of interpretation and expression it still is not enough.

That someone thought that this putto that stands guard at a confessional needed further augmentation and decoration with a white ribbon and a fake rose is beyond me - but there you have it.  Herzjesukirche, that I described on Friday, is in its simplicity suffused with the holy, but so is Asamskirche. And for some unknown soul the baroque of Asamskirche needed more. For me, it was all suffused with delight in what humans can create to somehow approach God.

As we walked away from Asamskirche the air was suffused with something else. There was a peal of bells coming from the towers of Frauenkirche, and, I think, from Sanktpetrus as well. The air was filled with bells - the peal continuing for almost a half an hour. It was beautiful and it was witness. However like most noise, many were oblivious to the sounds that surrounded them. In Michaelskirche the congregation and organ were filling the air with a hymn, some waving their hands to the music. In Frauenkirche they were singing the creed. The air was suffused with music. As we walked to the UBahn to meet family for lunch, the Glockenspiel at Marienplatz added to the joy.

Lunch was suffused with the joy of connection and family. We had a wonderful lunch with Günter and Franziska, and their children Philip, Vera (and her boyfriend David), Elisa, and Henri. Stories were told and news shared and lots of wine was drunk. It was so good to be there. 

On our way back to the hotel, we walked into Sanktpetruskirche, and stayed for Mass - a rather simple celebration in the midst of baroque splendor hidden in the spare night lighting - suffusion just under the surface.

24 October 2015

Samstag, 24 October 2015


Today was supposed to be about public art and the beauty of density - but that will have to wait for another day. We wanted today to be a "lazy" day: quiet breakfast, a wandering over to the NS-Dokumenationszentrum München, and then perhaps the Pinakothek der Modern. That did not happen, and the day was suffused with silence. We did make it to the new museum on Munich and Nazism. It is five floors of dense documentation: photographs, film, letters, etc. There are five floors of it, and even having done one floor of it on Wednesday, it took the better part of the day to take in all the exhibits.

I left it with mixed emotions. What is impressive is that the center focuses on the role that Munich played in the development, support, and expression of National Socialism. It seems like a deeply personal and private confession on the part of a city. Thus there are disturbing images and memories, and finally when it is all over, when you've seen all that you can see, only silence seems to serve the purpose of the day.

When Arthur and I were in Budapest several years ago we visited the beautiful Synagogue there, and stood for a while at a side yard outside the building. The yard was filled with tombstones, and soon I noticed that Arthur was crying. "Look at the year" he said, and I did. It was 1942 over and over again, and then I began to cry.  Walking back from Lenbachhaus on Wednesday we bumped into the Platz der Opfer des Nationalsocialismus. One is drawn to the "lantern" and its flame (above), and then off to the side a small mound of earth with an inscription noting the murder of Sinti and Roma peoples. I teared up. We had to be quiet for a while.

I complained to Arthur that homosexual men and women got scant notice in the Center's exhibits, and there is still no memorial to gay people who perished under National Socialism in Munich (although one is planned). Then I realized that I was being short-sighed. I realized that one could never have a full accounting of all who perished or who were victims (Opfer). It seemed clear that the Church did precious little to challenge the killing and the violence. I also realized that all the nations of the earth have oppressed, killed, removed, tortured, stigmatized and harassed peoples different than their own, and that all of us have Opfer. So now I will be quiet and think about what I can do.

I recall a plaque that is placed on the wall of Kreuzkirche in Dresden. It remembers as well, and then it does something remarkable. It asks for forgiveness and peace. Maybe that's where I need to go.

23 October 2015

Freitag, 23 Oktober 2015


And I don't mean the final frontier. I think I mean the kind of thought about buildings and place that John King delights us with in the San Francisco Chronicle.  We visited two spaces today that are similar in some respects, but vastly different in others.

After breakfast, we bundle up - it looks like it might rain.  We make our way to the Hauptbahnhof in order to catch the Schnellbahn to Schloß Nymphenburg, the suburban palace of the Bavarian kings. On the way there, however, Arthur treats me to something very special, Herz Jesu Kirche. In a nice upper class neighborhood, with buildings from around the first part of the last century, stands this starkly modern church. We wandered around it fascinated with its architecture and sense of space, and I will talk about that more later. We met and Indian architectural student, Jadip, who was on a quest there as well. We talked briefly about his studies, this particular building, and then advised him to go to the new Jewish Synagogue at Jakobsplatz. He knew of it and was planning on going there.

In a way, it's a similar kind of experiment about space and place as is Herz Jesu Kirche. I keep getting  ahead of myself, however. Our goal is the Schloß, and one approaches it by a rather long allée, the center of which is canal that directs the eye to the Schloß and the buildings that embrace it. Like Versailles, the approach is a bit pedestrian (pun intended) with the real beauty evident once you have breached the enclosure. Once you get in, you see the beauty of the gardens beyond. Not all that they contain is available today, so we will have to satisfy ourselves with the main house. Lunch first at the Orangerie, called Palmenhaus. Not so good. After lunch we avail ourselves of the apartments. The first room you encounter, after mounting a set of stairs intended for servants and underlings, is the Great Hall.

It is grand indeed, and surrounds those who entered it (from formal staircases outside on the east and west side of the building). They would have been drawn in to its grandeur, and immediately would have understand the purpose of the room and its effect. That's one of the things that all of these spaces have in common is that you immediately understand the nature of the space. It is ceremonial. Secondly each of these buildings is embraced while it is embracing the visitor. Herz Jesu Kirche is embraced by an outer skin of glass. The glass is imprinted with what look like cuneiform characters, but upon closer inspection reveal themselves to be nails. The space between the inner room and the outer enclosure serves as an ambulatory, and the stations of the cross are placed there so that one can process through them absent the room.

The Schloß is embraced by the living and ceremonial spaces that surround it, and the Synagogue is embraced by a roughly hewn stone wall (read wailing wall) that serves as a platform/envelope for the glass structure that holds the congregation. In the case of the church, the whole front wall serves as a huge door, that can be opened up to invite in and embrace the congregation. The doors of the synagogue are smaller but serve the same intent - an unmistakable breaching of the wall for a an invitation to the interior.

Each of these places interprets itself to the visitor upon approach and before entry. 

Here are some photos of the church that show attention to detail and design.

The Organ

Station XIV

Holy Water Stoop

I can't wait to hear what my anglo-catholic friends think of this space. In explaining to Arthur its appeal to me, I remembered going to mass at Notre Dame de Paris, and realizing that I couldn't see where the altar was. It was finally indicated to me by the gradual approach of a cloud of incense that wafted into the heights of the church. The space was that in which people and ceremony happened, and one was not distracted by other beauties, but only by this one - people + place. (Enough, Michael!)

We did go see a collection of royal carriages, each one more outrageous than the last. This sled, however, stood out for me - having first encountered it (or something like it) in Visconti's film, Ludwig. Utter magic. And if one thinks that Ludwig II was the only one given over to ostentation, this collection of carriages should serve as a cure for that misconception.

A walk through the neighborhood while waiting for dinner and then a concert brought other delights. The neighborhood was full of colorful ivies and other plants that were a joy. At the end of it all, there was the discovery of a shrine in the wall of what was probably a workroom or stable connected to the Schloß. 

It will be difficult to see, but behind the grill work is an annunciation scene, and a crucifix surmounted by the royal Bavarian arms. Faith and state. Faith and place. At the end of the day, Arthur's pose here represented our state of mind and body.

22 October 2015

Donnerstag, 22 Oktober 2015


Our goal is to walk over to Prinzregentstraße, and then see the apartment house that Hitler lived in (#16). and then continue on to Villa Stuck. So we go to the Isartor (above) and walk along, but away from, the river to Prinzregentstraße and then walk north. We walk past the Haus der Kunst, a museum designed by Otto Troost, which we have visited before, so we don't go in. The building isn't treated well, perhaps it's the provenance of the building itself. There are garish signs and posters plastered all over the face. In spite of its history, I don't like the present treatment. We look for the apartment house but walk right by it, not recognizing it.  Instead we encounter lovely autumnal scenes in the Englisher Garten.

There is also the Bavarian State Museum (huge) which we save for another day. It might be that I would be able get my fill of the Baroque and Rococo there. The exteriors are quite inviting. 

To get to Villa Stuck we have to cross the Isar, and Prinzregentstraße ends at a marvelous monument to Europa. She stands at the top of a column of victory, supported by a pavilion held up by caryatids and wonderful mosaics tying the monument to Greek legends, gods, and heroes. It is here that we begin to not only cross a bridge, but to make connections as well - but more of that later.

The trees here are approaching full color and the monuments and the plazas that embrace them are filled with unswept golden leaves. "Not very German," Arthur says, "should have been swept up." I find it very romantic and charming. There is an aspect of ruination here that I find attractive.  We make our way to Villa Stuck, built by Franz Stuck as a physical statement of his artistic vision. In some respects it bears a resemblance to Lenbachhause. The Wikipedia article on the house and museum is woefully misinformed, describing the interior as a art deco departure from the classicism of the building. Nothing could be farther from the truth, for the interior is filled with classical images. The staircase up to the studio is unabashedly Jugendstil, but that's it.

There are wonderful ceilings through out. The back rooms were damaged during the war, but all has been restored. Here are some images of the various ceilings: with the zodiac -

In an Italian manner -

And then there is that (quite wonderful) Jugendstil ceiling in the stairwell - 

I've been acquainted with Von Stuck's work for some time first seeing it in a book on Symbolism, called Dreamers of Decadence, by Phillippe Jullian, which features Von Stuck's work, Die Sünde. We also saw a version of it in Berlin at the Alte Nationalgalerie (along with other wonderful works by Arnold Böcklin, and Ludwig Feuerbach). Here it is included in an altar, which also includes sculptural references to himself and to his wife.

The gardens are full of classical elements, stele with heads of Pericles, Plato, etc., the she-wolf of Rome, and bas reliefs at the end of long porticoes, along with some amazing metal work.

It was the mail slot, however, at Villa Stuck, that got me to thinking about connections and cultural bridges. Had I not read Adam Nicolson's Why Homer Matters, I might not have thought in the way that I am. First of all the mail slot - 

The head of the Gorgon receives your postcards! Nicolson, in searching for the historic Homer (he comes to the conclusion that there were many - that it was a literary and cultural process) also pushes back the date in which the events of the Iliad and Odyssey were first formed. He images a time fresh off the steppes and gradual movement into the Mediterranean world. It was a time of violent battle, and horrific images. While walking home we saw this in a storefront:

There is a technical German word for this sort of thing, but it escapes me now. What it brought to mind, along with the Gorgon head, were the images and myth that surround hunt, battle, and bloodshed. Mary Beard in her book, The Parthenon Enigma rethinks the imagery and iconography of the frieze that surrounds the Parthenon. Her interpretation allows for the prospect that what we see depicted there is human sacrifice. We see the classical period as whitewashed, with all the colors that originally defined the statuary and monuments of ancient Greece faded away into a gentle and calming grey. As I see the devotion (here in München, and also in Wien, and other places) to the classical period, I also see the stories of violence and bloodshed that they really represent, and that we can no longer see. I'm nattering on, but I think there is a natural proclivity that connects to totems of ancient German lands, to the ancient stories of Greece that came down to us in Homer. The reflections and shadows of that literature and history are somehow connected to the images that grace our public buildings and monuments.

There's nothing like Baroque to take one out of that frame of mind. On our way back we put our heads into Annaklöster, a baroque church connected to the convent that supports the work at Saint Anne's Church, across the street. Later, on my own, I also stopped into Heiligen Geist (above) that has been beautifully restored. The flow of its columns and arches took me into another world. All the stories that our various cultures support and give meaning to life are simply amazing. The last image, however, is fundamentally German, and fundamentally delicious.

Potatoes at the Viktualienmarkt in München.