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Stadel Museum inaugurates an entirely new presentation of the modern art collection
Franz Marc (1880-1916), Dog Lying in the Snow, um 1911. Oil on canvas, 62,5 x 105 cm. Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main. Photo: Städel Museum - ARTOTHEK. Property of the Städelscher Museums-Verein.

FRANKFURT.- The reopening of the garden wing with its presentation “Modern Art (1800–1945)” on November 17, 2011 will be the first of three major collection openings at the Städel Museum. At the first opening, visitors will not only find the museum rooms of the garden wing refurbished and redesigned as well as a museum shop with a bookshop and a café extending the former range of services, but also “an entirely new presentation of the modern art collection which, besides familiar and popular works, includes a number of important new additions and surprising positions,” as Max Hollein, Director of the Städel Museum, notes. The “Modern Art” presentation at the Städel Museum offers a concentrated survey of the development of European art and sculpture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The emphasis is on German and French painting. With works such as Claude Monet’s “The Luncheon” (1868), Pablo Picasso’s “Fernande Olivier” (1909), or Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s “Standing Nude with Hat” (1910), the Städel possesses key works of the more recent history of art. The new presentation will not only make the contentual connections and interactions between the European art movements and the various artists better understandable, but will also comprise photographs for the first time and include more works by women artists than before. One room each will be devoted to the work of Max Beckmann and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

Following the reopening of the “Modern Art” presentation, the “Old Masters (1300–1800)” collection in the Main wing of the old building will be accessible from December 15, 2011. The final highlight will be the opening of the extension building with its presentation of contemporary art on February 25, 2012.

Structural and infrastructural measures
The old Städel Museum building with its Main River and garden wings underwent general refurbishment in the course of the construction of the extension building for the contemporary art presentation. Under the direction of the architects schneider+schumacher, who are also responsible for the extension building, the entire old structure was modernized. The roof of the garden wing was renovated and fitted with new skylights, for example. The existing building was turned into a barrierfree area by means of an additional elevator and furnished with the latest fire protection measures. Exactly in the axis of the main entrance, a central staircase connects the old structure to the new building. Additional measures after plans by the architectural office Kuehn Malvezzi ensure the conditions necessary for present-day forms of presentation in the old building. Its special qualities have been brought out as far as possible by restoring historical spatial axes. The design of the route through the exhibition, of lighting, coloring, displays, and new furniture grants the optimum effect of all works in a contemporary setting.

A series of elegant grey tones alternates with a strong blue in the section reserved for Modernism; the color concept is supported by a new system of dimmable artificial lighting at the level of the skylights and spots for addition accents. A newly furnished museum shop designed by SPIESS Interior Design with a bookshop and a café in the entrance area improve the Städel’s customer service. The Peter Schmidt Group was commissioned with the further development of the entire Städel’s graphic presentation; the results are to be found in all wall texts and printed matter, as well as in a new logo. Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Schweickart, chair of the Städel Museum’s administration, emphasizes that “we are extraordinarily happy that the reopening of the ‘Modern Art’ collection after a construction period of only fourteen months can now ring in the new Städel and allows us to present our collection to the public in a new form.”

New presentation of the collection
The refurbishment measures were accompanied by a fundamental reorganization of the modern art department. “The new presentation offered an opportunity of going through the Städel’s own holdings, which comprise about 1,200 works in the field of modern art, with a fresh eye,” says Dr. Felix Krämer, head of the department. Many of the two-hundred works on display have long since been part of the gallery’s fixtures. Frequently, these exhibits are now to be found side by side with new discoveries or rediscoveries. Two of the most spectacular finds in the museum’s depot are certainly Jean-Léon Gérôme’s “Saint Jerome” from 1874, which was not included in the Städel’s inventories in the turmoil of World War II, and a nude which could be attributed to Ernst Ludwig Kirchner with absolute certainty in 2010. Other artists such as Ernst Deger, Anton Zwengauer, Ottilie W. Roederstein, Angilbert Göbel, or Helmut Kolle are largely forgotten, yet are definitely worth rediscovering.

While the artists’ national context was more strongly emphasized in the old presentation, the new presentation clearly focuses on contentual connections and the cultural exchange between the European artists and the various movements. Works by the German Brücke artists are mounted next to paintings by Henri Matisse and Edvard Munch – their great examples. The tour through the exhibition starts in the hallway with monumental works by Philipp Veit, Friedrich Overbeck, and Carl Friedrich Lessing, which reflect the Städel’s foundation years of the early nineteenth century (this introductory section will be accessible after the reopening of the Main wing as of December 15). While the first room offers art from the first half of the nineteenth century with Johann Wilhelm Heinrich Tischbein’s famous portrait of Goethe in its center, art from after 1850 (Gustave Courbet, Victor Müller, Arnold Böcklin) is shown in the two large halls that follow. The presentation continues on both sides – with Symbolist tendencies (Odilon Redon, Franz von Stuck, Max Klinger, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes) respectively Impressionism and Modernism (Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet, Max Liebermann, artists of the Brücke group, Henri Matisse, Edvard Munch, and Pablo Picasso), respectively. The accents of the selection result from the priorities developed over the years so that one room each is reserved for Max Beckmann and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

The presentation of the collection also reflects the dark sides of German history. In a special cabinet, works by artists who were persecuted in the Third Reich are deliberately confronted with paintings that represent the official production of those years. This approach is not aimed at scandalization; the context promises to bring to light the “degenerate” artists’ creativity and urge for innovation even more clearly. The inclusion of photographs in the “Modern Art” presentation is a complete novelty. Thanks to the acquisition of the Wiegand Collection by the Städelscher Museums-Verein made possible through the support from the Kulturstiftung der Länder and the Hessische Kulturstiftung, photography could be established as a new area of the Städel’s collection. The common presentation of painting, sculpture, and photography allows highlighting the interaction between the various media, which has brought about brilliant results particularly in the field of modern art.

New acquisitions and permanent loans
“It is for the first time now that the new ‘Modern Art’ presentation reveals the commitment with which we have deliberately extended the collection also in this respect in recent years,” says Max Hollein. Next to the two hundred and fifty photographs from the Wiegand collection, the most important acquisitions include works by painters from the New Objectivity milieu like Karl Hubbuch and Anton Räderscheidt. Félix Vallotton’s “Nude Blonde” from 1921 represents another major purchase by the Städelscher Museums-Verein. Further new acquisitions include works by Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach and Hanns Ludwig Katz. An important addition to the Städel’s collection is a group of permanent loans transferred to the museum by the Commerzbank from the erstwhile Kunstsammlung Dresdner Bank. These comprise, among others, works by László Moholy-Nagy, Ljubov Popova, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, and Max Beckmann. Further important permanent loans by Max Beckmann, Marc Chagall, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner have been entrusted to the Städel by private collectors.

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