Sitting alongside the two venerable Pinakothek museums that house one of Europe's finest art collections from the 14th to the end of the 20th centuries, the vast new $160 million building houses more than just the finest modern art collection in Germany. It also includes three further collections, of design, architecture and graphics.
"It is the combination of these four separate collections in a single extraordinary space, and their linkages and cross-fertilization, that makes the 'Pinakothek Moderne' so unique," says the museum's Nicole Nehler, giving United Press International a guided tour through the naked wires and building materials as workmen race to make the Sept. 16 opening date.
Designed by Stephan Braunfels, the new museum looks deceptively modest from the outside, a classically austere Bauhaus-style building in white stone and glass. Once inside, the space seems to explode with light and potential. From beneath a large glass dome, that echoes Sir Norman Foster's dome above the restored Berlin Reichstag, giant diagonals lead left to the design collection and right to the modern art.
Braunfels's plan was deliberate, to suggest that there should be no real boundaries between art and design. So a vast 1968 model for a never-built supersonic airliner, so aerodynamic that it looks eerily like a dolphin, hangs opposite a modern light sculpture, and a BMW motorcycle balances the vast wood sculpture by Josef Bueys, "The End of the 20th century."
The new museum has a powerful resonance for German art-lovers, bringing back in a single space many of the German paintings from 1910-1935 that were banned by the Nazi regime as perverted or degenerate.
Some survived by sheer luck. A Kandinsky was hidden away in a coal cellar. A Louis Corinth was found tucked away in his daughter's attic. From their exile in Italy, Sophie and Emanuel Fohn arranged with Hitler's art police to exchange their own collection of classic 18th and 19th century German paintings for some of the confiscated "degenerate" art, and the Fohn collection with its stunning g Max Beckmann paintings is now one of the bulwarks of the new Munich museum.
"As we understand it, art is an indivisible continuum, which in its entirety reflects social and intellectual processes through history," say the four curators, one for each of the four collections, in the museum's statement of intent. "We did not want an isolated juxtaposition of four collections that just happened to be housed under one roof. Our approach is super-disciplinary."
Some of the exhibits seem to cross those boundaries with ease. One of the modern conceptual art installations of a tumbled, messy living room could almost fit into the design collection as an example of 1950s furniture.
The curators have planned guided and audio tours of the collection that weave visitors back and forth between the collections, to link the Matisse and Picasso paintings to the Bauhaus architectural plans and to the industrial and consumer designs of the same period. The one entrance ticket gives access to all four collections, the 50,000 items of design, the 350,000 drawing and 500 models of architecture, the 400,000 drawings and prints in the graphics section, including works by Leonardo da Vinci and Cezanne.
Florian Hufnagl, the curator of what he claims is the richest design collection anywhere, places 1950s wooden tennis rackets alongside classic 19th century bentwood rocking chairs; a 1930s aircraft radial engine by an 1970s telephone and a 1950s bobsled by an 1875 typewriter.
"We are greatly excited about the opening of one of the most important museums of modern and contemporary, architecture and design worldwide, but also about the birth of a thriving site of encounter within the arts," Hufnagl notes.
The Pinakothek Moderne will also be open in time for this year's Oktoberfest, Munich's famed annual beer festival, when over a million visitors drink between them some 5 million gallons of beer -- and will find drinking glasses and traditional German beer mugs also represented among the design exhibits.
"We want this art museum to be just as much a symbol of Munich as the Oktoberfest," says Nicole Nehler.