A couple of weeks ago I visited a great art exhibit here in
Bamberg. I’d had a rather good week anyway, and a student sent me flowers at
school for helping him prepare, linguistically, for his upcoming move to South Africa:
As you might surmise from my previous posts, Bamberg isn’t
exactly known as an art mecca. It’s more well known as a beer center, even
billed by the tourist bureau as Bierstadt
or Beer City.
However, I had seen banners around town advertising an art
exhibit titled Zwolf Kunsträume – von
Picasso zu Beuys
(12 Art Rooms – from Picasso to Beuys), works of world
famous artists through the 20th Century.
This exhibit was being held in conjunction with the Bayerische Landesgartenschau
Garden Show), a really big deal around here. I plan to visit this show at least
once, and you’ll see a future blog post about it.
I resolved to see the art show, of course. Turns out the
exhibit was being held in the Villa Dessauer historical mansion in the upscale
part of town. I’d wanted to see this building for a while, too, but hadn’t been
able to find it open. It’s only open for special shows, so this was my chance.
I took BlackFlash and rode into town to this lovely mansion.
Villa Dessauer was built in 1884 by a Jewish hops merchant
named, of course, Dessauer. It’s a huge, imposing structure in neo-Renaissance
I had a rather hard time tracking down any information about
this building online, but here is what I’ve been able to dig up:
Dessauer was one of the richest people in Bamberg and the
house was definitely a status symbol. Apparently the official opening of the
house was a grand ball.
Dessauer hired an architect out of Hannover named Geb to
build it. The outside has classical features such as this statue set in the
center. She is holding an anchor in one hand, which, in Renaissance symbology,
means safety and hope. The other arm, which you can’t see in this photo,
carries a caduceus, which symbolizes commerce. It’s the same staff with snakes
that often denotes the medical field today.
dormer has caryatids:
pavement, there’s even a door for my friend Debbie:
Here is an
example of the Dessauer insignia sculpted right into the building. You can see
it on each wall:
I found lots
of references to when this house was built and for whom, but not much about the
intriguing notation on the sign here: 1945 Amerika-Haus.
Finally, I found some history written
in German and ran it through Google translator. Here is what (I think) it said:
Dessauer had no children, so he eventually sold the house to
someone else in 1907 just before he died. That owner later sold it to someone
named Neuberg who ended up subdividing the house into separate apartments and
renting them out. After that the house passed to someone named Pretzfelder.
The Nazis came along and confiscated the
house in 1942 and used it for a tax office and other governmental bureaus. The
Americans took possession in 1945 at the end of WWII, but I couldn’t find
anything about what they used it for. Maybe administrative offices as well.
Eventually the villa was returned to its last owner,
Pretzfelder, who had fled to England before the war. In 1954, he sold it to the
city of Bamberg, who owns it today. The city used the villa for offices and
storage space until 1987 when it converted the house into a venue for for
special art exhibits and municipal events.
I was surprised to be told that I could freely take pictures
of the exhibit! This is highly unusual, but, on the other hand, the lighting
was terrible for photographs, so I have but a few. Here’s an example of the
ornate architecture inside the house:
At the time the mansion was built, it had the most modern
conveniences available. I read it had a glass ceiling in the atrium that has
since been removed. However, the original etched glass in the stairwell it
It’s a marvel that this beautiful house still stands in all
its magnificence and is used for noble purposes. I would have been happy to pay
the seven Euros just to see the house. However, there was an art exhibit to
see, so I got down to business.
I was astounded to find what a wide array of famous artists
were collected here! Not only Picasso, but Dali, Hundertwasser, Kandinsky,
Christo, Chagall, Warhol and many, many others, apparently all from a private
collection of one Richard H. Mayer who lives here in Bamberg. I don’t know who
this person is, but I will find out.
were impressive for the most part. There were so many pieces that the curators
had a hard time fitting all of them onto the walls in some places. This
resulted in some of them not being properly lit, but I’d rather see one in
shadows than not at all. Here are the Picasso and Dali displays:
As I said, there
were many and beautiful pieces. One of the Picasso’s that I particularly
enjoyed were portraits of his son Claude and daughter Paloma when they were
children. The portraits were made entirely from his fingerprints.
meeting Georges Mathieu for the first time with his work La Temeraire
. In addition there was a whole room of Chagall, one of
my favorites with his blue airiness. I’d heard of the famous German artist
Hundertwasser – I think I remembered his name because it literally means
“hundred water.” I hadn’t seen any of his work until that day, but now I know
was well represented. In addition to Dali, there was Hans Bellmer, whose
marionette drawings were interesting, if not disturbing. There were selections
of Pop Art, including a Warhol or two. There were a couple of pieces from
Richard Lindner, who I’d recently met at the Bayreuth art museum
The last of
the 12 art rooms was devoted to Joseph Beuys (1921 – 1986), a famous German
artist. I’d never heard of him, but most Germans I talked to about him knew his
name and had a positive reaction. I have to say his works were not my favorite
style, but my German teacher explained that he was very high-profile and
outspoken about political issues. And he was always photographed wearing his
If you want
to see any of the images I just mentioned, just plug their names into Google
Images and enjoy! There are too many for me to include all the links.
the exhibit had an excellent catalog available, so I bought that and am still
met me at the gallery and we went afterward to meet Anette and Michael, our
friends from Kronach, for dinner at a great Indian restaurant, Swarg
means, despite the way it sounds, “paradise” in the language of India. The meal
happy to see all the food:
We had a
great dinner outside on the patio. It was there that Anette and Michael invited
me to Kronach “sometime in the near future.” And then I lucked into the Crana
Historica trip the very next weekend.
blurry shot of us that the waiter took for me.
I hope you
enjoyed my art-filled outing. I wish all of you could have seen this glorious
display. Look forward to more art excursions in the future!
Photo for No Apparent Reason: