Tag Archives: Nuremberg

Nuremberg

With Christmas coming up, one of Europe’s most interesting places to be at is Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt, where booths are stacked with easy-to-indulge-in glühwein and gingerbread, wooden toys, and a festive atmosphere pervades. Unfortunately I can’t speak to that more specifically – I was in the Franconian city during a heat wave this past August.

Medieval Nuremberg is bounded by a wall marked with 80 towers. A walking tour through it and across the Pegnitz River reveals its charming spots. Almost 90% of it was destroyed in WWII and, although most of the historical buildings have since been reconstructed, it still feels ancient. The presence of timber-framed buildings, the city’s prescribed angle of roofs and dormers, and the lack of high-rises no doubt play a role in that. Gothic churches and patricians’ houses round out the medieval motif, not to mention the imperial Kaiserburg castle towering above from its sandstone ridge on the northern edge of the old town.

Nuremberg’s ugly past is in full view. Though it remains an active court, on certain days you can sit in the Courtroom 600 at the Palace of Justice, the original venue where leaders of the tyrannical Nazi regime had to answer to their crimes before an international tribunal. There is a municipal information centre upstairs entitled Memorium Nürnberger Prozesse where extensive documentation through photos, films, and soundtracks gives visitors an in-depth look at the events leading up to the trials, of their course and the aftermath.

If you’re still curious to see more, the ‘Fascination and Terror’ permanent exhibition at the Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds examines the “causes, context and consequences of the National Socialist reign of terror.”  Architect Günther Domenig designed a diagonal glass and steel passageway that leads into the museum, piercing through the north wing of the immense Congress Hall’s unfinished remains. It is a cold and effective architectural counterpoint. Seeing the museum’s documentary evidence of the sheer magnitude of crowds that once packed the former grounds to the brim – a shivering thought – and then later standing at the long-empty Zeppelin Field feels positively surreal.

On an entirely different level, the Neues Museum (State Museum for Art and Design) mounted an exhibition of designer Alessandro Mendini; some works by Gerhard Richter; and, Martin Wöhrl’s “Maß und Werk“, a two-storey high metal tracery mounted directly behind the glass façade that faces onto Klarissenplatz.

One tip: if you ever visit Nuremberg, don’t make the mistake of confusing Franconians and Bavarians! I learned that the hard way – youch!

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Albrecht Dürer Haus

Nuremberg’s Historical Mile is a string of architectural and artistic landmarks and a key stop along the way is the Albrecht Dürer Haus. As a memorial to Germany’s “most famous Renaissance draughtsman”, it’s also, amazingly, one of the few buildings of the medieval city centre that survived the extensive bombing in 1945.

A painter, graphic artist and theoretician, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) was internationally known for his woodcuts and engravings, and benefited from the fact that Nuremberg, in its economic and cultural heyday at the time, was the centre for the printing trade and for different types of metal-work.

His once-residence and workplace now serves as a museum and visitors can tour the master’s recreated painting and printing workshops and watch demonstrations of historic artistic techniques. Though few originals and copies of his graphic works are on display, multimedia ‘kiosks’ illustrate a gallery of his works of art including: religious pieces, portraits, landscape sketches, and such infamous watercolours as Young Hare (Junger Feldhase) and Praying Hands. Tours are complemented by audio guides in which the speaker represents his wife, Agnes, describing everyday life in her husband’s household (frankly, a teensy bit eerie).

There’s no escaping Dürer’s presence in this, his home city, particularly in the Old Town. A larger-than life statue of him towers in Albrecht-Dürer-Platz and a bronze sculpture of a hare, a reference to the artist’s painting, Junger Feldhase, appears to quash a human foot, perhaps alluding to the “dire results of tampering with nature.” More recently, Italian designer Alessandro Mendini paid a tribute to the artist with the sculpture Il Cavaliere di Dürer (The Knight of Dürer) at the Neues Museum in Nuremberg this past summer (see post).

Alessandro Mendini : Curiosities and Design

An exhibition of the works of Italian designer, architect, and cultural theorist Alessandro Mendini at the Neues Museum in Nuremberg leads the visitor into a visual, playful, and wondrous world.

A collaboration with the International Design Museum Munich, the Wunderkammer (Cabinet of Curiosity) Design retrospective presents a host of examples from Mendini’s oeuvre of the last 40 years – brightly coloured objects, furniture and paintings – in homage to the artist on his 80th birthday. Mendini himself designed the exhibition landscape. In the large central gallery space, nine light blue islands, their shapes derived from elements in his design idiom, serve as platforms and pedestals for over 80 polished pieces. Through their curious play of scale, decorated opulence and exotic nature, each instils a sense of fantasy.

Noted art on display includes: giant Guanto (Glove) and Scarpa (Shoe) sculptures covered in hand-cut, 24-carat gold mosaic tiles; Mobile infinito table; San Francisco partition wall inspired by the utopian ideals of California, a state that Mendini describes as “a magical destination, a mirage, a warm fertile and colourful place;” and, a series of miniature hand-painted ceramic ‘Proust’ armchairs. In the museum’s central atrium stands Il Cavaliere di Dürer (The Knight of Dürer), a recent sculpture of blue and white gold mosaics depicting a knight on horseback, a nod to Nuremberg artist and theorist Albrecht Dürer.

Alessandro Mendini played a significant part in the development of Italian design in the second half of the 20th century, challenging existing notions and questioning the conventional. Widely regarded as an agent provocateur of industrial design, he stimulated many new trends. A protagonist of the Radical Design movement, Mendini founded Studio Alchimia in 1978 along with Ettore Sottsass and outlined its theoretical foundations in Alchimia’s Manifeto in 1985, stating: “There is no originality anymore and every new design object only combines varying décors, patterns and surfaces. Design is ‘re-design’. Designing is decorating.” By combining and mixing various styles and forms of expression from different epochs, Mendini transforms banal, everyday objects into radiantly colourful ‘re-designs’. The communicative power of ornamentation is central to his work and he applies it to his art in order to create a deeper relationship between human beings and the objects around them.

Mendini is an image consultant and designer for Alessi, Cartier, Swatch, Swarovski, and Bisazza. He held the post of editor-in-chief of internationally influential Domus and Casabella magazines and, as architect, has several buildings to his name: the Groninger Museum in The Netherlands, the Casino in Arosa and the Forum in Omegna. He currently runs Atelier Mendini, a multi-disciplinary practice in Milan, with his brother Francesco.

Alessandro Mendini’s Wunderkammer Design exhibit is on view at The Neues Museum at Klarissenplatz in Nuremberg, Germany until October 23.