{Germany} From Spanish master painters to selfies with Ryan Gosling

January 12, 2016

Germany

I’ve been meaning to tell you about a spontaneous trip I took to Düsseldorf, over on the western side of Germany, in December, after being invited by the Museum Kunstpalast and the NRW Forum to their ‘Bloggertreffen’ (Blogger Meetup) for cultural bloggers. It’s been a while since I visited the NRW Forum, and I had never before visited the Museum Kunstpalast, and so, since the dates happened to be compatible with our busy family schedule, I readily accepted the invitation.

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We started with a round-the-table session at the NRW Forum, where the “elite of art and culture bloggers in Germany” (okay, I admit, I felt flattered) where welcomed, and one of the other bloggers gave a short presentation, the crux of which was whether art and exhibition reviewers these days are not being critical enough. I don’t know. My reviews tend to be personal accounts, and I mostly follow the ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’ school of thought, though I do on occasion offer constructive criticism where called for.

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But probably of more interest to my dear readers here, are the two exhibitions we had the privilege of being taken round. We started off in the Museum Kunstpalast’s exhibition “Zurbarán. Master of Details.” I admit, I had never heard of Spanish Baroque painter Francisco de Zurbarán (1598 – 1664) before, even though he is apparently one of the most important artists of Spain’s golden age, but also one of the ‘Greats’ of European art in general. As I’ve alluded to on the blog in the past, I’m not the world’s greatest art expert, and I’m not great with names. I know what I like when I see it. And I really liked what I saw. The accolade ‘Master of Details’ was spot on, and well deserved. His attention to detail just mind boggling. Here are a couple of impressions from the exhibition:

Then, after some dinner back the the NRW Forum (the two museums are next to each other, by the way), we got a quick tour around “Ego Update: The Future of Digital Identity’, which is dedicated to the “Selfie” phenomenon. It looks at how our sense of self changes and has changed, under the influence of digital media, and how the digital revolution has changed photography – “I think, therefore I am” has become “I photograph, I document, therefore I am”. It was quite a thought provoking exhibition, and even included a display of the “monkey selfies” created by photographer David Slater, which unleashed copyright debate. And the exhibition seems aptly hosted in Düsseldorf – did you know that a 2014 TIME magazine survey found Düsseldorf to be the selfie capital of Germany, ahead of Berlin or Hamburg! Keeping in theme with the exhibition, visitors were also invited to take their own selfies at several points. Here are a couple of mine:

All in all, it was a really nice afternoon, lots of networking with other bloggers, discussions with the museum staff, and – of course – two great exhibitions! If you happen to find yourself in or near Düsseldorf this January,  Zurbarán is showing at Museum Kunstpalast until 31st January, and Ego Update is Showing at NRW Forum until 17th January.

BUT…there is also an Epilog. Back at my hotel, I had a chance to browse through the ‘goodie bags’ (two new museum tote bags for my collection!), which included not only catalogues of the exhibitions we had seen, but loads of leaflets about the various programmes and events for different audience groups. I’d already had a few conversations about families and museums over the course of the afternoon – and I believe my vocal advocating of that topic on my blog was one of the reasons that got me invited in the first place – and reading through the leaflets filled in the missing details. And at that point, I just wanted to squeeze the Museum Kunstpalast in to my goodie bag and take that home with me to Berlin too. From “Kunst mit Baby” (Art with Babies), to “Kleine Freunde” (quarterly workshops for families with kids aged 4-10), to a weekly youth club during term time for kids age 13+, to “Kunst Fans” (monthly events for young people aged 18-35), *almost* every age group for children and young people, save for toddlers, seemed to have their own special programme. Additionally, the regular programme of events includes guided tours for families, and workshops at weekends or during holidays covering various ages from 4 to 12. Of course, they are not the only museum to have such a varied programme – plenty of museums in Berlin, for example,  offer fantastic programmes for families (you can subscribe to ‘Berlin Museums for Kids’ for updates) – but this programme looked particularly interesting and fun. Yes, fun! It’s okay to have fun in a museum. Really, it is! Anyway, I think if we lived closer, we would probably be regular visitors. 

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Many thanks to the two museums for the invite, and for kindly covering the costs of my travel and accommodation. All views and opinions are my own!

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