11 May 2013

A long afternoon in the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt

It was my last full day in Frankfurt (a Saturday) and I headed for the Museum of Modern Art (MMK), conveniently located on the West side of the old town.

The building is nicknamed the "piece of cake" because it looks like one. The footprint of the building helps to create some unusual spaces inside and the architect has played with levels too. Despite this the building is surprisingly easy to move around, unlike its equivalent in Hannover.

It also scored over Hannover in that photography was allowed. I had to fill in a simple form promising not to use them for commercial purposes and in return I got to wear a "photographer" sticky label for the afternoon.

The exhibitions were spread over three of the four floors, level two seemed to be offices, and I managed to get around all of them.

The Krazy House by Rineke Dijkstra was the main exhibition and bits of it were spread over the museum. A lot of it was videos recorded in England (the girl in the poster is from Liverpool) and it was a little strange hearing English again after a week in Germany.

The videos were off limits for photography but then a photo would not have told you much. These were real people dancing, talking and drawing. In one a group of children discussed Picasso's Weeping Woman (oddly on loan from the Tate) and some of the suggestions that they came up for for why she was weeping made you wonder what they were allowed to watch at home. Gory did not come in to it.

One of the features of modern art is that it comes in many forms which makes a walk round a gallery one full of surprises. Who could have expected a room full of furniture that looks as though it was arranged by the proverbial bull?

The photos on the wall are of the same girl/woman taken a year or two apart to show her progress from young girl to mother. I liked both the similarities in the pictures (the same subject seated) and their differences (her appearance and background). Simple but effective.

Pictures also featured heavily in the room next door. This was an odd collection of images that included, for example, the cover of a Marvel comic, the Bay City Rollers, a government leaflet on the Poll Tax, a beer mat, a cheque and various photographs. A collection of more-or-less everyday images brought together.

I looked at every single one, some of them more than once.

The collection of bottles in one corner added to the overall impression of strangeness that conflicted with the ordinariness of the individual images.

Not all of the exhibits were that traditional.

Making a piece of art by neatly folding colourful cloths was a stroke of genius. There were four piles and I chose this one for its colour and structure.

Equally modern and captivating were the spaces illuminated by fluorescent lights in two colours. The interplay between the two colours and the three lights gave the confined space a suitably strange feel.

One of the other highlights was also electronic.

The room itself was simple enough. A wide screen filled one long wall while mirrors on the two ends repeated the projected patterns to infinity. In the middle of the room, facing the screen, was a bench where about a dozen people could sit at a time. I sat there for a long time.

The display was a serious of modulating patterns each lasting for about a minute. Strange electronic beeps matched the movement. The combination was weird, hypnotic and beautiful. If I could have brought one installation home then it would have been this one.

Elsewhere in the museum there was so much more to enjoy.

Possibly the strangest was the plain white room with a pair of legs sticking out from behind a short wall.

The more familiar included some of Andy Warhol's Campbell's soup cans and Roy Lichtenstein's green and yellow brush strokes.

Back in the unusual camp were a collection of lampshades, a tidy bedroom, a rant against consumerism in posters and drawings, sketches of characters in the Jungle Book, and a room of old machinery with no obvious purpose.

I find the duration test a good way of judging how much I enjoyed a museum, gallery or exhibition and I was in MMK for around four hours. That must be some sort of record and is a fair reflection of how much there was to see and how much I liked it.

I emerged to find that the afternoon had gone and there was nothing left to do but find a cafe in Paulsplatz for the mandatory coffee and cake. This is what I go on holiday for.

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