Museum Insel Hombroich had its start in 1982 when real estate broker Karl Heinrich Muller purchased the property by the Erft River near Dusseldorf to display his extensive collection of art. Despite its name, Insel Hombroich is not a true island but an enclosure, where the busy life of the surrounding metropolitan Dusseldorf seems to disappear far away behind the surrounding tall greenery. The landscape is a naturalistic combination of wetlands, meadows and wooded areas, sensitively designed by landscape architect Bernhard Korte. Wandering through it, the visitor passes through fifteen pavilions, most of them by sculptor Erwin Heerich. Built of recycled, rough bricks, steel and glass, these minimalist buildings have a cloister like feeling. Some of them contain artworks, some are empty, functioning themselves as huge sculptures to be experienced both from outside and inside.
Inside of Turm, by Erwin Heerich, 1989.
After entering Museum Insel Hombroich, there are no guards or attendants. The works of art are shown without any artificial light, so the experience of them changes depending on the time of day and the season of the visit. The scope and quality of the collection is amazing: there is ethnic art from Africa, Polynesia, Mexico and East Asia, and then works by Western artists, from the traditional to the ultra-contemporary. Rembrandt, Matisse and Cezanne, Schwitters, Arp and Calder are just few of the artists on display. There are no signs or nametags around, and the visitors are left alone with the artworks, taking them in without any explanations. An eccentric but effective choice, and a great contrast to the information overload confronting visitors in most museums today. The cloister like atmosphere continues in the museum restaurant; nothing there can be bought with money, all is included in the entrance fee. The choices are minimalistic. When my sister and I visited (in the mid-90s), it was late afternoon and the only things left were whole, red onions, some dark rye bread and cold, hard cooked eggs; not a feast directly. But despite having walked through the extensive grounds, no food was needed: we felt completely satisfied, filled up by the tranquil and meditative experience of the art and the landscape of Insel Hombroich.
The pavilions and art are surrounded with gently undulating meadows and woods.
I could not find my own paper pictures from Hombroich from the mid 90's, so I borrowed some from the Museum Insel Hombroich. Special thanks to Hanna for taking me to this unusual and memorable place!