Tag Archives: art

Street art in Germany

I was out and about this morning in the part of Germany over towards the Dutch border.  You know… near that place that makes every Brit giggle as they pass the Ausfahrt on the Autobahn.

What I found interesting around there, was the wide range of ways local communities choose to “decorate” their streets. For instance, in Nettetal I found weird brick mounds in the street… and trees made from scrap iron….


Not all of the artwork was in particularly convenient places. I bet this outdoor café owner was chuffed when someone decided to build this right in his main seating area!

Further up the road, Grefrath was a bit more traditional about its street-art. There was a cross between a ship’s mast and a maypole with banners on it for all the local clubs and guilds.

The Grefrathers also have a slightly more traditional sense of civic art when it comes to statues. This was on the square.

I’m not sure what it was called, but I think I’ll refer to it as: Naked children wrestling with a lump of putty



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Things I’m looking forward to in Germany in 2011

2011 promises to be a fun year in Germany.

For a start, Düsseldorf will be playing host to the Eurovision song contest in May. Although the tickets for the main event sold out almost instantly, a whole programme of events is scheduled around the competition and there will be the beloved “public viewing” areas where those who couldn’t get tickets can watch together from the comfort of the biergarten. Those of us who dare to wear our country’s colours can expect a jocular ribbing from the locals when the inevitable “nul points” happens.

Düsseldorf 2011

Then in June and July there’s the FIFA Women’s World Cup finals.  Less of an all-encompassing national party than the men’s version in 2006, but nontheless a fabulous event with many matches in various parts of the country. And England will be there! Yay!

There’s still every chance of getting tickets to games, and of course the public viewing opportunities should be good too. Oooh! More beer! I wonder where I put my vuvuzela….


For the more highbrow, there are some fabulous art exhibitions coming up in 2011.  I’ve got my eye on the Jan Vermeer exhibition in Munich in which opens on 17. March at the Alte Pinakothek.  Should be a nice peaceful antedote to the excesses of Karneval the week before.

Before that though, there’s the Roy Lichtenstein exhibition at the Ludwiggalerie in Schloß Oberhausen which opens on January 23 and runs to May 1. Great stuff – Kerpow…BANG!
The clear highlight of the year though is definitely going to be the Faces of the Renaissance exhibition at the Bode Museum in Berlin which starts on August 26 and runs to November 20. This is an event where the big museums of the world have got together to create a show of some of their most valuable Italian portraits.  Lippi, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Leonardo da Vinci will all be attending. And so will I, of course.
Anyone know of any other major events coming up this year?


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An afternoon with Ellen Schweitzer

This afternoon we had the chance to visit Düsseldorf artist Ellen Schweitzer in her studio.

Ellen creates amazing art and sculptures using mirrors, glass and a wide variety of other materials such as screws, cutlery, light bulbs, ball bearings, metal objects and even empty ink cartridges.

She told me she first started experimenting with creating art using mirrors at the age of thirteen. Her first piece was a gift for her grandfather. Since then she has made countless fabulous mirrors which are gracing the walls of restaurants, offices and homes all over Düsseldorf.

Her pieces are both decorative and useful – many of them actually function as a mirror, but with an intriguing design creating an inner frame around the centre.  The use of glass and metal creates amazing effects as the light is caught and reflected differently as you walk past. The viewer is irresistably drawn in to the swirling forms and the refracted light patterns.

Ellen works with a lot of humour too. In some pieces, closer examination yields strange objects suspended in the glass. One mirror contained rows of screws. Another was a pattern of bubbles and ball bearings.

“Can you guess what this one is?” giggles Ellen, pointing to a huge mirror with irregularly oval shaped blisters covering its surface.

I can’t.

“It’s lenses from old pairs of spectacles embedded in the surface of the glass.”

It seems like nothing goes to waste in the Schweitzer household.

Ellen’s mirror art is unique. She has developed the technique herself, along with the special materials she uses. She pulls out mirror after mirror of her technical tests, where she has documented the effects of different types of glue together with its impact on glass, metal, plastic… Many of the glues she uses, she blends herself, based of years of experimentation.

“Here, see… this one, this is no good at all. It discolours when it dries. This other one, look, it attracts dust after a while, so it doesn’t stay clear and bright. This one is good – but you can’t use it with copper objects because they go green. But this one is fine with copper….”

Under each test is a label detailing the exact location of the individual glue recipe in her notes. German artists are clearly extremely organised – an impression which is reinforced by the neatly arranged jars of glass marbles, beads, screws, ice cream spoons, washers, ball bearings and other items which appear in her work.

“I have to keep my studio spotlessly clean,” Ellen explains. “When you’re working with materials like glue, you can’t risk dust or cobwebs getting into it before it dries. Everything needs to shine.”

Ellen also shows me a lovely range of her hand-made jewellery – where mirrors also feature strongly. Her designs are bold and modern. Some incorporating oddities like screws and fuses, others more abstract – but nonetheless very striking.

I can’t decide between three of her brooches – so I end up buying all of them. I must be turning German… I’ve started my Christmas shopping in July already!

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And how was your day?

It’s been quite a week for some people in the German speaking world.

The person I feel particularly sorry for is Juri Steiner, the director of the Paul Klee centre in Berne. While most of us battle with minor issues at work, like a broken photocopier or an unpaid invoice, Mr. Steiner has had problems of a dimension that is hard to comprehend.

His museum was hosting en exhibition including an eloquently titled exhibit: Complex Shit by the artist Paul McCarthy.

The exhibit in question was a giant inflatable dog turd the size of a house.  Yes you read that right.

Unfortunately for Mr. Steiner, the aforementioned oversized dog turd fell victim to a sudden gust of wind and blew off into the sunset, taking with it a power line, eventually landing in the grounds of a children’s home, breaking a window in the process.

The full story can be read here, and a picture of the turd in question is here.

My week, although filled with the usual minor setbacks and niggling annoyances, pales in comparison to Mr. Steiner’s.

I just hope he gets his turd back.

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