Small, but perfectly formed, the Wallraf Museum in Cologne is an antidote to hit and miss contemporary galleries or endurance-testing leviathans typical of most city centres. It’s about 5 minutes walk from the Cologne Cathedral, contains an excellent cafe and is kitty corner to the Farina Fragrance Museum.
The other side of the city from Museum Island, the Gemäldegalerie is a painting paradise. Holbein, Titian, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Rubens, Rembrandt and shed loads of others you didn’t even know you loved: they’re all carefully, and, according to the museum, scientifically hung over 72 rooms. The pieces in the Gemäldegalerie are unusual in Europe because the collection was started by the government, not an aristocrat. From its inception in 1815, the collection was meant to reflect the full breadth of European art.
The guiding principle of the Bucerius Kunst Forum is to present art in new contexts. For example a recent exhibition of Frida Kahlo’s work highlighted connections between European and Mexican art. The museum is small – there is only room for 100 exhibits at a time – so it can afford to be very precise in its programming choices. The Kunst Forum frequently borrows from other museums to complete the show, so who knows what will turn up at your next visit.
When the Electors Saxony weren’t busy ordering bakers to make 1.8 ton Christmas cakes, they were collecting art. These days, the Elector is no longer but the art lives on in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister. Well, most of it. During the war, the collection was stored elsewhere and then confiscated by the Russians. 450 paintings are still missing, but the jewel in the Alte Meister crown, Raphael’s Sistine Madonna returned home safely.
Fifty km northeast of Dortmund, in the heart of Germany’s former industrial heartland, the ad agency art is just a four letter word maintains a gallery focused on street art and graffiti that has amassed an international following. Artists like Rookie the Weird, Jan Kalab, Bates and Adele Renault are all featured.