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Where to Find Modern Art in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Modern art lovers rejoice! You’re going to love Frankfurt am Main, Germany! You have great choices for seeing modern and contemporary art and I have three recommendations to help you start planning your modern art escapades in Frankfurt.

Museum für Moderne Kunst designed by Hans Hollein | Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Museum fuer Moderne Kunst (MMK for short)
The design of this building reminds me of a cat meme, ‘If I fits, I sits’. In 1983, Hans Hollein’s slice of cake-looking design won first prize for the architecture competition for Frankfurt’s newest museum. Hollein fully utilized the space and leaves the visitor guessing how the inside of the museum will work. There are different routes and levels, all the while you can peek over at other spaces. The exhibit spaces are very photogenic. No surprise, there was a family and a professional photographer using the staircase as a backdrop for their family photos. It’s that cool inside.

The Museum fuer Moderne Kunst permanent collection is from the 1960s until present day, and includes all mediums including photography. They have ongoing efforts to digitze their collection, and you can view their hard work here:

Important to Know Before You Go
The entire permanent collection is not on view all the time, due to space constraints. If you’re there for one artist only or one piece only, its best to call or email ahead of time to find out if its on the floor. We looked from top to bottom for the 57 Penguin piece, only to find out after fruitless searching that it wasn’t currently out.

Schirn Kunsthalle | Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Schirn Kunsthalle
The modern looking Schirn Kunsthalle building is hiding down a narrow alleyway off the Roemerberg. The entry foyer is minimalistic and stark, with LED directional signage lighting. There’s no permanent collection, the museum is completely dependent on the temporary exhibits they run. When temporary exhibits are your livelihood, it's imperative to be newsworthy and unique. They’re very progressive and creative with their topics. While we were there, they had a Vienna Woodcut Exhibition, the first of its kind running. The Schirn smartly spent part of the exhibit space showing the original blocks and explaining the process of Woodcutting alongside the pieces.

I’m personally agonizing that the exhibit Splendor and Misery in the Weimar Republic starts the month after our trip. Its running from October 27-February 25, 2018. If you go, please tell me all about it! I’m already contemplating how I can get my hands on an exhibition catalog.

Important To Know Before You Go
The museum staff is super strict about bags and coats going into the exhibition rooms. There’s an airport-style bag size tester for you to check and see if your belongings are too big, and a security guard in place to enforce it. The signage is bilingual, German and English.

Staedel Museum
Can I write an art museum post about Frankfurt, and NOT include the Staedel Museum? No way! The Staedel Museum also the entire lower floor dedicated to modern art. If you missed my article about the Staedel, it was the 13th post I ever wrote for this blog so I don’t blame you, I’ll fill you in about what you need to know about the Staedel here.

How the Staedel Museum in Frankfurt Stole My Heart | Photo Copyright Städel Museum

Photo Copyright Städel Museum

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A Sculpture Museum That Will Change Your Mind About Sculpture

A Sculpture Museum That Will Change Your Mind About Sculpture | Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

When visiting the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, you feel as if you’re visiting a noble German uncle that you’ve heard so much about. Along the river Main in Frankfurt, Germany, the museums are lined up neatly in a row. Most were obviously homes at one time. Through an iron gate, you walk along what was once a driveway towards a ‘villa’, what to me seems like a mansion, but ok. In such a big city as Frankfurt, there is a surprising expanse of green grass and landscaping in front. There are outdoor sculptures nestled amongst the trees and shady areas of the yard, distracting the visitor from the front door.

Gründerzeit Architecture
The museum building is a work of art as well. The villa was designed by Munich architect Leonhard Romeis between 1892 and 1896 for the textile manufacturer Heinrich Baron von Liebieg (where Liebieghaus gets its name). The architecture style is called Gründerzeit, which translates to Founder’s Period. During that time, urban housing in Austria and Germany was booming, and entire streets of town homes were being built four to six stories high. Historic periods such as Classical, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque were all being emulated and blended together as part of the larger Historicism movement of the era. In the Liebieghaus in particular, the architect Romeis blended South Tyrolean and the Bamberg Renaissance, and various other styles. What better stage to curate a sculpture museum that covers 5,000 years of history, from Ancient Egypt to Neoclassical than in a villa that was lovingly designed to honor those periods. It's a happy synergy.

Interior of the Liebieghaus museum, a villa designed by Munich architect Leonhard Romeis between 1892 and 1896 for the textile manufacturer Heinrich Baron von Liebieg.

Don’t Repeat My Mistake
I tend to overlook sculptures when I’m in an art museum, so I dismissed visiting the Liebieghaus, an art museum dedicated solely to sculpture, in Frankfurt am Main for years. Over time though, repeatedly the Liebieghaus would come to my attention, either in rave reviews of guide books or from Frankfurt natives. All reports declared that it was exemplary and not to be missed. Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me. I was admittedly starting to feel guilty after I’ve visited neighboring Staedel Museum five-six times in the interim! You can read How the Staedel Museum Stole My Heart here if you're curious.

Now, I’m going to be another voice singing the praises of this museum.

Maria Immaculata by Matthias Steinl at the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Why? Maybe it's because with only sculptures on display it's easier to absorb them without being distracted by paintings on the wall. Perhaps the dramatic wall colors and high contrast lighting really brings the sculptures to life? In an art museum with both paintings and sculptures it's hard to light both mediums dynamically.

The Adoring Angel by Franz Ignaz Günther at the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Regardless, I wasn’t bored, and neither was Sebastian. The museum is the right size, cozy yet grandiose, and you can see a majority of the collection in one visit. The signage is predominately bilingual, German and English, which helps so much. If there’s a special exhibition currently running, be sure to check out the exhibit’s Digitorial online to learn more about what you’ll see. For example, this is what is currently running, Between Definite and Dubious.

Gods in Color
The Liebieghaus collection is the proud parent to a traveling exhibit that has been touring museums all over the world for fifteen years. It dispels the commonly-held belief that classical sculpture from Ancient Greece and Rome have always been white marble. Science and extremely lucky archaeological discoveries have been able to prove otherwise, and the Liebieghaus has gone to such lengths as to present actual-size reproductions in the ‘original color format’ next to the surviving, authentic pieces as part of the museum's permanent collection.. Wow are they bright! It's shocking to see! Here’s the museum’s Digitorial about the exhibit Gods in Color.

Neoclassical Ariadne on the Panther
I’m a cat person. Undeniably my jaw dropped when I saw Ariadne on the Panther. Arguably the most famous and celebrated sculpture in Frankfurt is the Neoclassicist Johann Heinrich Dannecker’s Ariadne on the Panther, a visual play of beauty and mankind conquering wild nature. The Liebieghaus shared the history and restoration of this beloved piece on their blog, The Ariadne File.

Johann Heinrich Dannecker's Ariadne on the Panther in the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Ancient Egypt
I was most excited to see the collection from ancient Egypt, and it lived up to my anticipation. I loved how the museum positioned the mummy lids so that you can see inside the lids as well as the exterior.

Egyptian Antiquities Collection at the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

I didn’t expect to see paintings on wood panels from that time period. It's a marvel that such fragile materials survive for so long! During Greek and Roman rule in Egypt, mummy burial customs adapted the ancient Greek painting style into an additional element, a painted portrait on wood panel of the deceased enclosed with the body.

Wood Panel Mummy Portrait at the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

One More Thing
You have to see the conservation and restoration workshop video posted by the museum, it's incredible, and has English subtitles!


Have You Been To the Liebieghaus? Have you ever put off a museum only to regret not seeing it sooner when the time came? Let us know in the comments.

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What You Will Discover at the Deutsches Filmmuseum

Exterior of the Frankfurt Deutsches Filmmuseum

If you love movies, I have a museum for you. I had initially put off seeing the Deutsches Filmmuseum because I had the preconceived notion that I should be a film buff to appreciate it, but I was so wrong. This museum is actually a behind the scenes look at how movies are made, and explains the technological advances that culminated in the invention of film, from wooden peep show boxes to photograhy.

The museum is very modern, has interactive stations throughout to help explain the concepts, and there’s English translations on almost all of the signage. Don’t have all day? Even better, because you can easily make it through the entire permanent collection in a morning.

Exploring the Pre-history of Film & Cinema at the Frankfurt Deutsches Filmmuseum

Filmic Vision | 1st Floor
The first floor was historically-focused on the 16th-19th centuries, and explained various inventions and precursory technology that made the invention of film possible. The Deutsches Filmmuseum really excels at explaining how the antiquated apparatuses worked, and contextualized why it inspired further curiosity and invention. You're able to experience firsthand many of the historic gadgets on display. For example the museum sets up the (pictured below) peep show exhibit so you can understand how it works by viewing the layout of the interior of the box, as well as look through the viewing hole as intended.

Frankfurt Deutsches Filmmuseum Exhibit on Historic Peep Shows

Exhibit showing an 1868-1869 Cylinder Anamorphosis at the Frankfurt Deutsches Filmmuseum

The floor ends triumphantly with introducing projection technology in a complete theater room showing black and white silent film.

Filmic Narrative | 2nd Floor
Up the stairs, the exhibits move into present day breaking down the elements of a movie; acting, sound, images, and editing.

Green Screen Fun on the 2nd floor of the Frankfurt Deustches Filmmuseum

The interactive station fun continues with a gigantic green screen that you can experience, and a mood lighting lab where you can recreate historic lighting setups from classic scenes using yourself as the subject.

Mood Lighting Interactive Station at the Frankfurt Deutsches Filmmuseum

Sprinkled throughout this floor are movie props, scripts, and storyboards from iconic movies that will give you goosebumps. The collection even has a Darth Vader helmet used in the original Star Wars trilogy!

Animation Cells, Movie Props, Costume Design and More Exhibited at the Frankfurt Deutsches Filmmuseum

Film Room Exhibit at the Frankfurt Deutsches Filmmuseum

In the editing exhibit I was amazed to see a half painting, where the top was a hilly landscape painting, and the bottom half was just black...because that’s where they edited in real film footage of a boat on the water!

For a finale, four projection screens were assembled forming a U-shape with four different movies playing at the same time that all had similar visual elements together, like all chasing scenes, all walking scenes, all green monsters, but only one movie soundtrack playing.

Be sure to check out the current temporary exhibit. When I visited they had a Shaun the Sheep exhibit that included the real claymation sculptures and sets.

Exterior of the Frankfurt am Main Deutsches Filmmuseum

Planning your Trip to the Deutsches Filmmuseum
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Wednesday the museum stays open for 2 additional hours, closing at 8:00 p.m. Tickets start at 6 Euros with some discounts available. Click here for more information.

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What You Must See at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

In the adjoining building to the Goethe House, and up the stairs, squirreled away in fourteen jewel-tone rooms are paintings, busts, and ephemera from the time of Goethe, revealing his colleagues, friends, adversaries, and rulers. What a genius lens to view a person’s life! If you take the necessary time, no more than an hour, to visit the galleries, you’ll see the painting styles change as Goethe witnessed them.

Goethe’s lifetime saw late Baroque, Rococo, Enlightenment and Sensibility, literary Storm and Stress movement, Weimar Classicism, and Romanticism. There are examples of all these movements in one place. It’s impressive the wealth of the experience in such a small collection. One of the most important Fuseli collections in Europe, a trail blazing German woman artist whose story is nearly impossible to find, and THREE Caspar David Friedrich’s landscapes in one small room.

The German painter Caroline Bardua...who was she? Her three portraits of the Von Arnim sisters hang in Room 11 of the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

The adjoining Frankfurt Goethe Museum is a graphic arts collection, library and a manuscript archive. While the nonprofit group Freies Deutsches Hochstift furnished and opened the Goethe House in 1863, the complementing Goethe Museum opened 34 years later in 1897.

Remember that beefy, 22-page English brochure in the gift shop for 1.50 Euros? You’ll be so glad you bought it. It provides the overview of each of the 14 gallery room themes and explains the relationships Goethe had with the subjects for a majority of the works on display. I’m only going to focus on three rooms, and I’ll elaborate on what you’ll find in the brochure.

The painting Mad Kate by Henry Fuseli on display at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum represents the Sturm und Drang movement

The Sturm und Drang Movement Visualized
Room 3 | Johann Heinrich Füssli: New Paths in Historical Painting

(German birthname: Johann Heinrich Füssli) Henry Fuseli's paintings were a revolutionary thrill to behold during Goethe’s lifetime. A great example of being at the right place at the right time, when writers, including Goethe, and musicians were rebelling against the Enlightenment ideals and exploring human nature and emotions, cue Fuseli with his dramatic, emotional paintings bringing to life Shakespeare’s plays and supernatural forces. His explosive depictions resonated with what others were reading and composing. He is most famous for his renditions of ‘The Nightmare.’ The first version (1781) was so impactful he made several variations of the work, and the Frankfurt Goethe Museum collection has the 1790-1791 variation.

Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare painting was so popular he did several variations. The Frankfurt Goethe Museum has the 1790-1791 variation.

Who Was Painter Caroline Bardua?
Room 11 | Clemens Brentano, Bettine and Achim von Arnim

I was delighted to see in Room 11 a triplet of stunning portraits of ladies that was painted by a female artist I’ve never heard of. Her name is Caroline Bardua. Unfortunately the accompanying text was in German and only had the names of the subjects, dates, materials, artists, the basics.

Portrait painting of Maximiliane Von Arnim by German Painter Caroline Bardua at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

Far left, Maximiliane von Arnim, the oldest daughter of the Bettine and Achim von Arnim.

Portrait painting of Armgart Von Arnim by German Painter Caroline Bardua at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

In the middle is her younger sister Armgart von Arnim, and on the far right is the youngest Gisela von Arnim. Gisela later married the son of Wilhelm Grimm, and became famous for her own fairy tales. The sisters had their own literary salon, Kaffeter Kreis, Maximiliane was the President. Caroline Bardua painted the three sisters’ portraits in 1845.

Portrait painting of Gisela Von Arnim by German Painter Caroline Bardua at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

A basic google search on Caroline Bardua brings up tidbits; she was a middle-class female artist who supported herself, and sometimes her sister too, with her art! Very rare, and very hard to do! So many webpages were quick to point this out, but I couldn’t get much farther than that.

Finally a breakthrough thanks to Google Books search, I found a well-sourced biographical entry on Caroline Bardua. She sounds like such a cool, brave, independent lady, and Goethe helped her career. There’s no mention of this in the Museum, and there really should be! Goethe’s recommendation helped her get into the Weimar Academy where she studied for three years under Johann Heinrich Meyer. Then, Goethe gave her a letter of recommendation to study under portrait painter Gerhard von Kügelgen. She lived to be 83 years old and was a lifelong, self-supported painter. If you’d like to read more about her, she’s on page 209-2012 in the Dictionary of Women Artists: Artists, A-J.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Caspar David Friedrich
Room 12 | Romantic Landscapes

If you’re a Caspar David Friedrich fan, then you’ll be tempted to skip straight to Room 12. I don’t blame you.

The Evening Star by Caspar David Friedrich, on display in the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

The Frankfurt Goethe Museum has three similarly-sized landscapes by Friedrich, The Evening Star, Swans in the Reeds, and Willow Bushes in the Setting Sun. There’s debate as to whether Goethe was a fan of Friedrich’s, but does it really matter? The brochure points out that Goethe’s feelings were ambiguous. However, it was thanks to an early career competition prize Friedrich won, which Goethe was a juror, that legitimized Friedrich as an artist. History can’t have one without the other. I’m disappointed in how my cellphone shots turned out, and then the public domain ones I found aren’t any better. You really just need to see them in person, they’re stunning. It’s challenging with such high contrast paintings with a lot of dark areas to see the detail in reproduction. However, in person, every brush stroke is delicate, and looking at any one of these pieces is to be transported into the scene, emotions in your throat, classic Friedrich.

Have you been next door to the Goethe House, where Goethe was born? We'll fill you in on the highlights, just click here.

Where? When? How Much?
You can reach the Frankfurter Goethe House and Museum by all subways and interurban trains stopping at ‘Hauptwache’ within five to ten minutes walk. Car parks are located in the immediate surroundings. The address is Frankfurter Goethe-Haus / Freies Deutsches Hochstift, Großer Hirschgraben 23-25, 60311 Frankfurt am Main.
Typical hours for the Goethe House and Museum are Monday through Saturday, 10am-6pm, and Sunday from 10am-5:30pm. Admission is 7 Euros. Check the official site for available discounts and group prices.

Swans in the Reeds by Caspar David Friedrich, on display in the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

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Willow Bush in the Setting Sun by Caspar David Friedrich, on display in the Frankfurt Goethe Museum
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