The Museum

Kunst am Bau

 

 

THOMAS DEMAND

Approaching the Lenbachhaus, visitors are greeted from afar by Thomas Demand’s letter sculpture LENBACHHAUS (2012), which marks the new entrance. Far more than just a nametag, the sculpture, which stands out from the façade by virtue of its color, is composed of individual letters. Their bodies, set off from the façade by a few inches, grow out of an antiqua base, tapering toward the beholder to form a sans-serif typeface. The two-tiered lettering of the metal sculpture is held together by wedge-shaped crosspieces, creating a three-dimensional effect and heightening the interplay of light and shadow. The slender lines of the unadorned metal letters are illuminated, so as night falls, the sculpture continues to highlight the new entrance to the museum. The antiqua typeface was borrowed from the design first used when the Lenbachhaus was founded in 1929; the sans-serif, meanwhile, matches the museum’s current typographic identity.

The Berlin-based artist Thomas Demand (b. Munich, 1964) primarily works in three dimensions. He often builds life-sized colored-paper reconstructions of images that have become part of the collective memory, usually photographs of historic events or places. He then takes pictures to reproduce the sites he has recovered. The resulting photographs present a transformed image. For the opening of the new Lenbachhaus, Demand has reinstalled his Embassy (2007) — a crime scene documentary of the incident at the embassy of Niger in Rome in 2001, which ultimately served the Bush government in its effort to legitimize the Iraq War — in a room dedicated to this work.

 

OLAFUR ELIASSON

A spiral-shaped vortex made of polished metal and colored glass reaches down from the atrium’s ceiling to just above the visitors’ heads. The steel and glass sculpture has a maximum diameter of around twenty-three feet and measures more than twenty-six feet in height. Almost 450 panes of glass were assembled with great precision to make it. Wirbelwerk (Vortex) is the title Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967) has given to his work created in 2012. The basic idea behind it lies in its dynamic energy: a vortex is a circular movement that sucks what it seizes down into the depths before bringing it back up to the surface. The Coriolis effect, which deflects moving bodies in a rotating reference frame onto a spiral-shaped trajectory, has been known since the Enlightenment era around 1800. It is crucial to how physicists understand phenomena ranging from hurricanes to ocean currents, as well as the order of galaxies. Steeply sloped widening bands composed of triangular pieces of colored transparent glass are held in place by conically tapered polished metal tubes that emphasize the gyrating motion.

Illuminated from inside, the radiant sculpture projects its shadows and flecks of colorful light on the surrounding walls. By using strong colors, Eliasson alludes to the visual universe of the paintings his work wants to lead up to while simultaneously reaching down from it.

Natural phenomena and how they are perceived are a central interest in the work of Olafur Eliasson, a Danish artist who lives in Berlin. The expansive environment Sonne statt Regen (Sun Instead of Rain) he created for the Lenbachhaus’s Kunstbau in 2003 builds on the light and color spectrum of atmospheric sunlight, allowing the visitor to quite literally feel its different emotional qualities.

 

DAN FLAVIN

For the inauguration of the Kunstbau in 1994, the American artist Dan Flavin (1933 – 96) designed the neon piece Untitled (For Ksenija), one of his last major light installations. In this extremely reduced and yet highly effective intervention, Flavin takes up the specific architectural situation at the Kunstbau, emphasizing the characteristic curvature of the elongated hall, which measures around 360 feet in length. Installed on the existing lighting tracks, the colorful fluorescent tubes suggest the subway running beneath the Kunstbau and impart a previously unimagined dynamic energy to the room. The colored neon light moreover generates intense chromatic reflections on the walls, floor, columns, and all other interior structural features. As the eye adapts to the scene, the illumination and the space are gradually fused in an indivisible union. Heiner and Philippa Friedrich donated this work to the Lenbachhaus in memory of their parents. It is one of the collection’s preeminent treasures and has been presented at regular intervals.

In 1994, Dan Flavin also created a series of illuminated stelae on the museum plaza to mark a connection between the Kunstbau and the Lenbachhaus. Ten stelae, each composed of four yellow neon tubes, clearly light the way from one museum building to the other and back. As part of the general renovation of the Lenbachhaus, access to the museum has been rerouted to the side of the complex facing Königsplatz, and so this aspect of the work is now even more clearly recognizable.