The Ottoneum was built in 1606 as a theater, in fact it is said to have been the first permanent theater building in Germany. It served as a theater for most of the seventeenth century, but was then completely remodeled in 1696 so it could house the ruling Landgrave's art and mineral collections.
The building was heavily damaged by bombs in October 1943 -- just some of the outer walls remained standing -- but it was re-built after the war and now houses the Natural Science Museum of the city of Kassel.
Admission is ordinarily EUR 1.50 for adults and 1.00 for those who get a reduction, but these prices are increased slightly when there is a special exhibition.
Open Tuesday through Sunday 10:00 - 17:00, Wednesdays until 20:00.
The Museum Fridericianum was opened in 1779. It is said to be the first building on the European continent that was conceived as a public museum. The architect was a Huguenot named Simon Louis du Ry.
The building was largely destroyed by bombs in 1941 and 1944, but was re-built after the war in time for the first Documenta in 1955.
Second photo: In the autumn of 2005 they were showing a five-part retrospective exhibition called "50 Years Documenta 1955 - 2005".
The Documenta is a HUGE modern art exhibition that is held in Kassel every five years.
The next one, Documenta 13, will be from June 9 to September 16, 2012, so mark your calendars everybody.
The "Documenta Hall" in this photo is only a small part of the actual Documenta, which manages to pre-empt just about every conceivable exhibition space in Kassel.
If you like the Internet and enjoy the Frankfurt Book Fair, you are bound to LOVE the Documenta.
Of the thousands of modern art works that are put on display here every five years, roughly 96% are pure rubbish in my notoriously inartistic opinion, but the show is so huge that you can spend several enjoyable days just taking in the 4% that appeals to you.
And you may well find that your 4% is not the same as my 4%.
It's not a good idea to go to the Documenta with an artist, by the way. I made that mistake once. Nothing against artists, but they tend to get terribly upset about that other 96%.
Until the end of 2006 the Documenta Hall was used as a temporary venue for spoken drama, while the State Theater was being renovated.
The Kuppeltheater was originally built in Freiburg, where it was used for two years while their theater was being renovated.
Then it was taken down and moved to Erfurt, where is stood for four years while the new opera house was being built there.
And after that it was moved over here to Kassel, where it was used for two and a half years, from September 2004 to December 2006.
Since it is basically just a big tent, you can hear some noises from outside, particularly from the trams stopping at the nearby tram stop. But aside from that the acoustics are very good. Also there is a good heating system, so nobody has to freeze in the winter.
Behind the theater there are seventy containers which serve as dressing rooms, make-up rooms, offices, cloakrooms, etc.
Second photo: Front view of the Kuppeltheater.
Third photo: The lobby of the Kuppeltheater.
Fourth photo: One of the dramaturges giving an introductory talk about the opera Il trovatore.
Fifth photo: Intermission.
Update 2010: The Kuppeltheater has now been set up in Heidelberg, where it will be used for the same purpose under the name "Opera Tent" while the Heidelberg City Theater is being expanded and rebuilt.
What do Kassel and Leipzig have in common?
In the early 1950s, both cities held architectural competitions to see who could design the best new modern opera house. Both of these competitions were won by architect Hans Scharoun (1893-1972) -- but neither of his proposed buildings was actually built.
Leipzig at least had a good excuse. Stalin was still alive at the time and nobody in the Soviet sphere of influence was willing to risk his wrath by building something they knew he would disapprove of.
But Kassel had no such excuse. It was safely located on the west side of the border, and there was no dictator to tell them what not to do. They were perfectly free to build an outstanding new opera house according to Scharoun's plans.
They actually did start building in October 1954, but stopped shortly thereafter (for reasons that are hard to fathom at this late date) and put up a mediocre substitute building instead. This one was opened in 1959 and was used for 45 years until 2004, when it had to be closed for safety and technical reasons. So now it is a construction site, but is scheduled to be re-opened at the end of 2006.
Whether or not it will look any better when it re-opens I don't know, but at least it won't be a firetrap any more, and will have modern stage machinery and larger workshops.
To get an idea of the sort of buildings Scharoun was designing in the 1950s, take a tour of his magnificent Philharmonie concert hall in Berlin.
Firedrichsplatz (Frederick's Square) is the heart of Kassel. It's located just next to the main shopping street and a good place for relaxing or having a coffee in one of the many cafes. At the moment with documenta going on, Friedrichsplatz has been turned into a poppy field which looks magnificent. Unfortunately, this is only the case for 100 days - but who knows if Kassel's inhabitants don't get used to the field and want to keep it? We shall see next year!
As mentioned in the intro to this page, Kassel just hosts the 12th documenta art exhibition. It takes place from June 16th to September 23rd, 2007 - so you've still got enough time left to go there!
What is it about? According to the official homepage, documenta is the most important exhibition of contemporary art. Since 1955, it takes place every five years in Kassel. Every exhibition was different as the director changes every five years. Thereby, "the singular character of the exhibition" is preserved. Moreover, documenta aims to act as a "seismograph" for contemporary art currents.
This year's documenta is curated by Roger M. Buergel. He chose three leitmotifs for the exhibition:
*Is modernity our antiquity?
*What is bare life?
*What is to be done?
For a better understanding of these phrases, check out the leitmotif explanation page! For more explicit tips on how to find interesting art on the documenta, check out part II, III and IV of this tip!
Of course, I didn't like every single piece of art displayed on documenta. Many things are just so weird that you think "What the heck has the artist thought when creating this piece of crap?!?". Others are simply boring. Yet others might be interesting, but are (for everybody who's not a 100% art buff) incomprehensible.
So here are some of the things that I found completely out of place:
1. Florian Pumhösl's (!!!) installation "Modernology" (2007, Fridericianum): Black walls, white pictures with a black line - that's it! Every 5-year-old could do that! Booooooooooooooring!!!!
2. Cosima von Bonin's sculpture "Löwe im Bonsaiwald" (1997, Fridericianum): Some crap and some bamboo sticks hanging from the ceiling. To add some exotic flavour, the colours don't harmonize at all. Simply ugly!
3. Charlotte Posenenske's sculpture "Revolving Vanes Serie E" (1967, Aue-Pavillon): It's getting worse: Some old plywood boards nailed together. Nothing else. I did similar stuff when I was in a crafts course for children at the age of 7 - but I didn't sell it as art and became famous on documenta... Damn!
Here's the second part of my top 10 artworks on documenta list:
6. Installation "Black Chords Plays Lyrics" by Saadane Afif (2004/07, in Aue-Pavillon): A darkened room full of guitars and amplifiers which are started coincidentally by a computer. Every some seconds, a guitar plays a chord... and then is silent again until somewhere else in the room the next guitar starts. Cool experience!
7. Photography "The Transported of Kwa-Ndebele" by David Goldblatt (1983, in Aue-Pavillon): A photography series about commuters in South Africa who have to leave their hometown at 2am to go to work in Pretoria and who come back at 11pm.
8. Photography "Analogue" by Zoe Leonard (1998-2007, in Aue-Pavillon): A series about closed Brooklyn and Harlem shops - in my opinion photography at its best!
9. Video Installation "Safely Manoeuvring Across Lin He Road" by Lin Yilin (1995, in Fridericianum): A video showing a man who transports a wall across Lin He Road by picking up one brick on one side and putting it down on the other side - everything amidst the running traffic!
10. Installation "Accumulation and Floor of the Forest" by Trisha Brown (1971, in Fridericianum): Several artists slowly climbing through a net woven from cloth and clothes - just weird, but interesting to watch!
This tip presents my personal views on what interesting artworks there are to see on documenta. As art is something to have endless discussions about, I would recommend to anybody reading the tip to check out documenta yourself. I may have completely different views about what is interesting or boring. Having read this, you can now see my top 10 artworks list (in two parts). These things will stay in my mind even after documenta XII has long gone!
1. Paintings by Juan Davila - e.g. "The arse end of the world" (1994, in Fridericianum, documenta-Halle and Aue-Pavillon): very radical, hardcore art. Davila combines elements from pornography with criticism of current politics etc. Certainly not everybody's taste, but interesting if you're willing to let the paintings affect you.
2. Video Installation "Deep Play" by Harun Farocki (2006, in Fridericianum): This installation will be among my art all-time favourites. Farocki shows the 2006 football world cup finals with numerous different perspectives and sounds, e.g. the camera director's voice, the monitoring cameras view and so on. This interesting mixture creates a view of the finals which I'm sure nobody has seen before.
3. Installation "Die Exklusive" by Andreas Siekmann (2001/07, on Friedrichsplatz): This merry-go-round is not really for little kids. It criticizes the deportation of immigrants by showing a number of figures and items that are somehow related to that. Reading his explanation of the artwork is highly interesting and will provide you with many thoughts for your way home.
4. The poppy field on Friedrichsplatz by Sanja Ivekovic (2007): Simply beautiful, especially now as it finally blossoms!
5. Installation "Phantom Truck The Radio" by Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle (2007, in documenta-Halle): A red room in which a rushing sound is heard combined with a dark room with a truck. Whatever this is supposed to mean, I just enjoyed the view from the completely dark room towards the red room - interesting photo opportunity!
A bit of a disappointment for us.
For one thing, the museum is not easy to find. We went to Kassel with German friends who visit Kassel fairly often, and they had difficulty finding it. It's a non descript, gray building, and unless you're looking carefully, you will miss it. We drove past it twice before seeing the sign! This place is obviously not well regarded as a tourist attraction!
Once we found it, we discovered that the top two floors were closed for renovations, which were, incidentally, the floors I was most interested in. The saving grace here, was they only charged half the admission fee as we could only see half the exhibits.
The bottom floor was almost entirely devoted to Frau Holle and nothing was in English. Fortunatley we had Germans with us who could translate. The second floor was dedicated to the brothers love of music and instruments.
The gift shop had very little of interest.
Until the top floors are opened again, I would give this place a miss.
The statue of Hercules was under construction when we visited it. The only way to see anything was to take a guided "tour" up the scaffolding (while wearing hard hats). The view of the park from the top is incredible, but you can't see much of the statue beyond the scaffolding and supports, but you can get an idea what it looks like.
The tour cost 6euros per person and was entirely in German. It was a bit pricy and we don't speak German, so the guided part was a bit wasted on us. The view from the bottom on the monument is quite nice, so if you don't want to pay that much, you'll still get a nice picture or two.
We were looking forward to seeing the water display, but we found out it only runs on certain days. If you're interested in seeing it, plan your visit to coordinate with this. It sounds spectacular!
Kassel houses the world-famous documenta every five years - that's a well-known fact. What is less known, however, is that the city buys at least one piece of art after each exhibition. Thus, many areas of Kassel have become safe havens for artworks which would otherwise have disappeared. These documenta leftovers can be seen in many places. For instance, there's the "Man walking to the sky" just in front of the train station Kassel-Hauptbahnhof. It's an impressive artwork with a man who walks up a long iron construction which looks like a diagonal lamppost. Btw, an advertisement with this man was used by the Kassel candidate of the German CDU during the election campaing in 2002. Famous, though hardly visible is an artwork on the Freidrichsplatz: the earth kilometre. It's basically a piece of metal on the ground which reminds you of the spectacular drilling of a 1km-hole at this site. All over Kassel, you come across trees (oaks, to be specific) with a block of basalt at their side. They belong to the Beuys artwork "7000 oaks" and have made Kassel's streets a lot greener. One thing I like very much is the "Pickaxe" at the Auedamm in the Karlsaue park. It looks just like a giant's favourite tool which he left for whatever reason at the shore of river Fulda.
A several story old historic building with beautiful floors - the first floor houses the literary works and paintings, memorabilia, and documenta about Hans Christian Anderson and his works. The top three floors cover the Brother Grimms, paintings about their fairy tales, and literary works, documents, mementos, and history. Everything is in German except the top floor has English translations. 4 stars out of 5. Visited 3/24/06.
One of the oldest museum buildings in Europe ... its also the location for documenta and international exhibitions. Currently holding contemporary and modern art collections. 4 stars out of 5. Visited 3/24/06