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June 2001

Matron of the Arts of the Arts

Ingvild Goetz— an art collector with a museum in her own backyard

The Goetz Collection is certainly one of Munich’s best kept cultural secrets. Last year, while the international art cognoscenti oohed and aahed over the architectural make-over of the Tate Modern—Britain’s new national museum of modern art, designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron—residents of Munich watched glumly from the sidelines, apparently unaware that they have their own, albeit somewhat smaller, modern art collection, also housed in a Herzog and de Meuron building, tucked away behind a brown wooden fence on the Oberföhringer Strasse.
The Goetz Collection is a private collection of modern art, encompassing the work of more than 100 artists of every genre, from painting and drawing to photography and video. Cindy Sherman, Tracey Ermin, Nobuyoshi Araki and Jeff Wall all have works in the collection. Although the earliest pieces here date from the late 1950s, the emphasis seems to lie in work from the past 30 years. For many years, the Goetz collection had no home of its own. Collector Ingvild Goetz commissioned Herzog and de Meuron to build a museum in the garden of her residence. The project was completed in 1993 and, since then, has played host to temporary exhibitions of the work of individual artists, which rotate every six months.
These, however, are just the bare facts. The museum itself is a small jewel, a polished block of pale milky glass and smooth wood, with a cool, airy interior. This simplicity is underscored by the absence of signs, informational posters or even a museum shop. Opening the glass doors to the library-cum-reception area is like stepping into someone’s home. The friendly, English-speaking staff will point you up the stairs to three large white rooms, which make up half of the exhibition space. Along with three further basement rooms and a space for showing videos, this must be about the best setting an artist could wish for to show his or her work: both spacious and intimate, the architecture stripped to a minimum, simple, yet not dull.
The museum is currently showing a collection of work by German artist Thomas Schütte. Schütte, born in Oldenburg in 1954, studied at the Düsseldorf Academy under the tutelage of such illustrious artists as Gerhard Richter. This exhibition of more than 50 pieces comprises a selection of works that spans the entire range of the artist’s oevre, from his early work as a student to his work from this year.
For those who consider modern art an acquired taste, Schütte’s work may prove an interesting exception. There is a satisfying sense of the artist’s skill in most of his pieces. You may stand in front of a series of prostrate ceramic figures and find yourself transfixed at once by their suffering and the careless artistry of their creator, rather than gripped by the uncomfortable thought that you once produced something similar in a high school pottery class. One room is lined with photographs of grotesque wax heads. Drooping, discolored faces with half-melted features bring to mind frustrated elderly dictators and yet, although they are so patently unreal, the vitality of these figures is undeniable.
A series of ten drawings and watercolors entitled “Luise” will please the viewer who likes art that is easy on the eye. Although the proportions are sometimes deliberately off center, like something half remembered, we are shown Luise in almost every kind of mood: pensive, self-absorbed, slightly coquettish. The works elicit the desire to meet this woman, to draw her out of the strictures of her black-and-white world and to make her flesh and blood.
The basement exhibits are more in the mode of modern art as we have come to expect it. Slightly puzzling installations include the Grabmal als Wartehäuschen für Bundesgartenschau, 1981 (Tomb as Waiting Area for the National Garden Show, 1981). And yet Schütte has such a distinctive hand that the observer may find it hard simply to walk past. Instead, visitors may find themselves looking more closely, inspecting details, trying to discover clues and understand what Schütte could have been thinking when he made this little red wooden house.
Those who wish to visit the Goetz Collection should call (089) 95 93 96 90 in advance. The museum, very small and unable to accommodate large crowds, closes for a number of weeks between exhibitions. The current exhibition lasts until August 11th. <<

The Goetz Collection, Oberföringer Strasse 103, is open Mon. to Fri., from 2 pm–6 pm, until 8 pm on Weds. and 11 am–2 pm every last Saturday in the month. Admission is free. If you go by public transport, take bus 88 or 188 toward Unterföring and get off at Bürgerpark. The entrance to the Museum is not posted—simply enter at number 103.

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