Let's deal first and foremost with the essentials. What has changed following the renovation of the Lenbachhaus? The answer: the entrance area. Visitors no longer enter the museum through the garden of the Villa, but through the new golden building at the side. And despite all the excitement about the new space, this is the first downside, because now visitors enter from the side, as it were. The celebrity architect Sir Norman Foster' vision was to integrate the old Lenbach Villa into the new entrance space: visitors now enter this new area and admittedly come face to face with the rear of the villa. In the past, prior to the renovation, visitors wandered through the garden up to the Italian villa, along the gravel path past the fountain and opened the wooden door with the small ornate door handle. Now they only wander past the old villa, as the new architecture dominates. You even have to press your nose against the window to see the old garden. "Make it more domestic," was the architect's mantra. Visitors are to feel like they are in a private house, as it were, in Lenbach's private villa. This aspect is only partially successful, as the museum is not especially cosy or comfortable, although the rooms now come up to the standards expected of a contemporary museum. Around half of the museum has been completely re-built.
By the people of Munich, for the people of Munich
"We are a civic museum," states Matthias Mühling, Curator of the Lenbachhaus. "The Lenbachhaus was founded by the people of Munich. Our collection does not date back to aristocratic, princely or royal collections," like the Alte Pinakothek, but the Lenbachhaus is based on the collections of the people themselves. Thus in 2012, a further group of sculptures was added to the important works of Joseph Beuys, a gift from the publisher and art collector Lothar Schirmer. A major focus of the Lenbachhaus still continues to be 19th century painting. The large-format canvases hang in the Neue Pinakothek, whereas visitors can view small-format canvases painted by the people here: paintings from the Munich School, with recent additions from the Christoph Heilmann Foundation, and landscape painting from Dresden, Düsseldorf and Berlin. Post-1945 and contemporary art is again very well represented. The Munich-based artist Thomas Demand has a room of his own for his monumental photographic works of art. All the major names are represented, including, of course, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Cy Twombly and Anselm Kiefer. Visitors are immediately faced with ironic sculptures by Erwin Wurm in the entrance space. The Lenbachhaus will continue to have a number of smaller focal areas.
A home for a horse
The highlight of the museum continues to be "Der Blaue Reiter", "The Blue Rider". The beautiful rooms on the top floor, flooded with natural daylight, have been given over to the artists Franz Marc, Alexej Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky and August Macke. Unlike with contemporary art, these paintings are not exhibited against white walls, but against coloured walls, as they have been since 1992. The "Blaue Reiter" remains, as it were, the major draw for visitors and yet, at the same time, is the museum management's major concern: hopefully bus loads of visitors don't just come to view Franz Marc's blue horse. Anyone who would like to see the new museum extension in all its golden splendour should definitely make a point of viewing the rear side, from the Richard Wagner-Strasse, where an entire street front is sheathed in a golden sheen.
Opening times: Tuesday, 10:00 – 20:00, Wednesday to Sunday, 10:00 – 18:00
Admission: €10, concessions €5
Address: Luisenstrasse 33
The Lenbachhaus website: http://www.lenbachhaus.de/blog/