I love Germany, I really do – I love the language and the beer and pretzels and museums and art galleries. I love how just a few stops south of central Cologne in Bruehl is a museum/art gallery dedicated to surrealist Max Ernst with a Man Ray photography exhibition downstairs (until 08/12/2013). Judging by the demographic of those inside it seems visiting an art gallery on a Sunday afternoon is the German equivalent of a stroll round the National Trust in the UK – it was pretty full with barely a soul under 40 (although its location next to a Rococo Palace may explain that). Its definitely worth a visit.
The permanent collection houses a large and varied body of work by Max Ernst (1891-1976) with text in German, English and French detailing his birth in Bruehl to his life in Paris and Arizona, with work displayed accordingly. The ground floor alone is impressive enough with sculptures such as Capricorn, that his wife described as the ‘guardian’ of their house, but as you explore upstairs the range of his work is clear with graphic texts, paintings and more sculptures.
The influence of Arizona in particular on his work is really interesting and the museum describes how the scenery there had been the inspiration he had been searching for, fitting so perfectly with his own surrealist, imagined landscapes and he made Sedona his home in the 1940s after fleeing Nazi occupied France, before returning to France in the 1950s.
The Man Ray (1890 – 1976) exhibition is equally extensive with numerous examples of his ‘rayographs’, ‘solarisation’ and photos of famous people including Picasso, Breton and his muse Kiki (with a famous image of her back imitating a violin). Man Ray and Max Ernst were good friends and exhibited together in the surrealist movement – and even had a joint wedding in 1946 – so its very fitting to see their work together in this way.
The museum itself is a really great, modern building, purpose built and opened in 2005 – the nearby palace means the area was already attracting visitors interested in culture, but its really great to see how busy and well used the space is, with these two extensive exhibitions and the quantity of people paying to see them.
Max Ernst Museum, Comesstraße 42, Bruehl
11am-6pm, Tues – Sun. 6 Euro entry