I don’t really remember how I first heard of it, but I
caught wind of an art exhibit in Frankfurt a few weeks ago. The artist was the
Norwegian Edvard Munch
. Now I know you are hearing the word “munch” in your mind when you read this
man’s name, but it really sounds more like “moonk.” Art was one of the reasons
I came to Europe, so I made my plans and booked my tickets online in advance.
On a Saturday morning in May I biked to the wonderful new
bicycle garage I described in my last journal
and secured BlackFlash. Then I hopped a train to Frankfurt. Fortunately this
week there were no delays and I managed my connection in Wurzburg quite nicely,
as well as the one to the Frankfurt subway line that brought me to the Schirn
Of course, I intended to record all of this for you with
photos, but best laid plans and all that. My trusty digital Nikon SLR turned
out not to be so trusty that day. One memory card had flaked out a week or so
ago and the remaining card flaked out that day. It simply refused to take any
pictures at all. Man!
However, my husband and I recently got a little GoPro HD
video camera that I’ve been playing with. It’s designed for videos in outdoor
conditions and for sports such as surfing, racing and mountain biking. That
means there is very little in the way of external controls like my Nikon SLR
has, including a viewfinder.
But the GoPro does take stills and I quickly read the manual
to figure out how to do that. Since I couldn’t see exactly what I was shooting,
I had to take potluck. Fortunately, I managed to get a few usable shots from
it, and also learned how to extract a still or two from the videos I shot that
day. So that’s why the photos in this travel journal look different than my
usual ones. I’m just glad I had something to show you from my outing.
Photo from the train window with the GoPro:
If you’re worried, calm yourself with the knowledge that a
new memory card for my still camera solved the problem with my Nikon.
The Schirn Museum in Frankfurt
was hosting the
Munch exhibit, and, as I approached, I saw slogans painted on the subway tunnel
walls and surrounding structures. I popped up above ground at the Römerberg subway
All of the slogans pointed out that whatever you were doing
at the moment was “not art.” For example, in this photo, which is just above
the escalator, the slogan on the left wall says, “Going downstairs is not art.”
The green slogan in the middle says, “Riding the subway is not art.” The slogan
on the right says “Going into the Schirn is not art.”
I didn’t know exactly where the museum was, but I took only
a few steps around the corner to see the museum entrance. Nice!
Edvard Munch lived from 1863 to 1944, was a prolific artist
and exerted a huge influence on European art. He lived in Norway, Paris and
Berlin. I didn’t realize how much of an impact he had on the art world during
his lifetime until I saw this exhibit.
Munch’s most famous painting is The Scream – you know, the “Home
Alone” hands on the sides of the face, mouth open and horrified look in the
eyes? Munch actually painted four different versions of The Scream, along with
some sketches, and two of them were famously stolen some years ago – and
fortunately recovered. A third version was sold at auction a few weeks ago for
$119.9M, a record sale for any artwork, even adjusting for inflation.
This exhibition was in Paris before it came to Frankfurt,
and it is a big deal. In fact, the Norwegian royal princess was present at the
opening. Check out a video here
Although The Scream is not part of the Frankfurt exhibit,
several other of Munch’s well-known images are on display. And, just like The
Scream, Munch painted many of his subjects in different versions at different
times with different techniques.
I have to say that the Schirn is a wonderful venue and quite
big. There was a big crowd, but the people flow was fairly constant because of
the floor plan. Munch painted gratifyingly large canvases, so the artwork was
easy to see as well.
As a former art gallery director, I appreciated the layout
of the exhibit. Exhibitors have several choices about how to hang a group of
artwork, including in chronological order or by related subject matter. Since
Munch painted the same subject in different ways and sometimes years apart, they
chose to group the paintings by subject matter. Therefore, it was easy to see
Munch’s evolution as an artist. I love to detect such trends in artwork and
literature, so I was very happy that they’d made it so easy!
In addition to paintings, Munch also experimented with a
still camera. The photos on display were quite small and consisted mostly of
long exposures of himself, sometimes with his own artwork, at his house, his
studio or even the hospital. The Schirn even had several short videos Munch
To me it looked like he was just trying out the cameras. But
there were lengthy analyses of the videos and photos posted alongside the
displays about what we could tell about the artist from his photographic work.
I disagree – I think you can tell more about him from his paintings because the
images were filtered through his mind, not simply recorded on film. Some of the
explanations were a little out there. It’s amusing sometimes how art critics
assign meanings to artworks that may not have been intended by the artist.
For example, one of the videos was a segment of horses
pulling fire engines responding to a fire alarm. Two engines were each pulled
by a team of four muscular white horses. The horses were galloping almost
straight toward the camera and you could see how deep-chested and powerful they
were. In another segment of the exhibit, there was a painting of a galloping horse,
obviously taken from the video.
Munch managed to convey the movement and power of the horse
in just a few strokes of the brush. THIS is why I think the paintings tell us
more about the artist than the videos do.
Of course, the Schirn doesn’t allow visitors to take photographs
inside, so I have no photos from inside the building. But I found a book in the
museum shop in English of Munch’s life and work that I am quite happy with.
After seeing the exhibit and perusing the gift shop, I was
ready for lunch. Frankfurt isn’t known as a tourist mecca, but I was in the
most touristy area of the city, Römerberg
Many moons ago I visited there, so I knew there was no lack
of traditional German restaurants in the neighborhood. I stopped at the first
one I came to, only about a half a block from the museum. It was just warm
enough to sit outside where I had my requisite beer, pork and sauerkraut. Here
are some GoPro shots from my table:
After lunch I walked a little but there is not much to see
unless you like glass and steel office buildings that are closed because it’s
Saturday. So I made my way back to the train station and treated myself to a
Starbucks before catching my train.
However, my train was about 40 minutes late, so I missed my
planned connection. However, I knew that there were plenty of later trains I
could take. Turns out that, when my late train arrived in Wurzburg, the next
train to Bamberg was waiting just on the other side of the platform. So I
waltzed onto it, found a seat, and was on my way.
I arrived only about a half hour later than I originally
planned, but it was almost 9:30pm. Fortunately, BlackFlash has a very bright
LED headlight, so I wasn’t worried about riding home in the dark.
When I got to the bike garage and inserted the card into the
machine, the machine spit it back out and told me that parking was free that
A further bonus awaited me in my bike basket: a book of German poetry! It was wrapped in plastic with a
sticker on the outside that said “gift from the author” in German. I have no
idea who left it there, and I don’t know the author, but it was a nice
So that’s my Munch adventure. I hope you learned a little
something from my outing. Stay tuned for another wonderful visit to an art
gallery here in Bamberg in my next post!
Photo for No Apparent Reason: