Saturday, January 30, 2010

Museum Insel Hombroich

Orangery, a sculpture by Erwin Heerich, 1983.
Wandering through the grounds of Museum Insel Hombroich is a strangely quiet but yet strong experience. All parts of this unusual museum are art: the landscape and pathways are carefully designed to offer a meditative experience; the pavilions scattered in the landscape are giant, minimalistic sculptures in themselves; and then the amazing collection of artworks, carefully exhibited inside the pavilions.
Inside the orangery, sculptures in direct connection with the surrounding landscape.

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!



nilla|utanpunkt said...

Inser att jag inte varit inne här hos dig på ett bra tag. Vilken underbar, modern arkitektur - för en gång skull, höll jag på att säga, men det vore orättvist. Men detta var något alldeles särskilt, mycket inspirerande. Den oidentifierade trädgården är ju en sagobild att vandra in i. Detsamma gäller möjligen inte ökenträdgårdsbilden, där ser det ut som om man får se upp var man sätter fötterna!

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Hej Camellia, det är faktiskt lite roligt att titta hur ens blogg 'utvecklar sig'; egentligen är just dessa minimalistiska verk drivna till det extrema närmast mitt hjärta. Och ändo blir det så få texter om dem. De är inte så vanliga kanske, men jag tänkte precis när jag skrev om Insel Hombroich att varför gör jag inte mer för att söka upp dem? Ha en underbar helg.