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Chic Munich (850th anniversary of the city)

Chic Munich (850th anniversary of the city)

Georges Rouzeau - 2008-01-15

Baroque and Italianate, Munich also boasts cutting-edge architecture: from Coop Himmelb(l)au to Herzog and De Meuron, the greatest names are represented here. Bavaria's capital is also the birthplace of today's most influential designer, Konstantin Grcic.

One of the leading German cities of contemporary architecture
Munich, which celebrates its 850th anniversary in 2008, has a taste for art, design and modern architecture.
Its contemporary heritage is as brilliant as its classical and Baroque monuments commissioned by Ludwig I Wittelsbach and Maximilien II.
World renowned architects like Helmut Jahn (Sony Center, Berlin), Herzog and De Meuron (Tate Modern, London) and the Coop Himmelb(l)au agency (Gasometer, Vienna) are represented across the city.
Munich is also the birthplace of today's most influential designer,  Konstantin Grcic.
From a restaurant (like Cafe Brenner) to a church (like Herz Jesu Kirche), from a contemporary art museum to a spa (like that at the Dorint Sofitel Bayerpost), from a head office (like BMW's) to a shopping arcade (like Fünf Höfe) without forgetting hotels (Kempinski), design and contemporary architecture can be seen in very different venues. 
Contemporary art: a wide variety of venues for a very lively scene
Boasting a dense network of world-class galleries and museums, Munich is a major art city.
So it comes as no surprise that the Pinakothek der Moderne is an institution of the size of the Tate Modern in London or the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
Together with the Alte Pinakothek (13th to 18th century art) and the Neue Pinakothek (18th to 19th century art) it forms an incomparable museum complex. 
Under its roof, the museum houses four different collections: modern art, architecture, graphic arts and design – some permanent, others temporary.
The building is a great success: its entrance rotunda topped with a starry dome, open-plan galleries of the upper floors, and large, immaculate white volumes, hold surprises in store for the eye while creating a serene setting.
From Picasso to Lucio Fontana without forgetting the German movements Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter, all the players of contemporary art are represented.
In the first basement, impressive pieces of industrial design – furniture, motorbikes and cars – are exhibited. Since 2004, the second basement, that looks like a Cistercian crypt with its heavy pillars, has been devoted to contemporary creative jewellery. 
Stepping back in time now, one of the most fascinating but also disturbing buildings in Munich is the Haus der Kunst, the first official building of Nazism on which work began in 1933 to the plans of Paul Ludwig Troost.
Contrary to what is sometimes believed, the famous exhibition of degenerate art (entartete kunst) was not held here but a few hundred metres away in a pavilion today destroyed, in the Hofgarten
Indeed, a selection of artists most representative of the ideology of the Third Reich was exhibited at the Nazi 'Art House' after 1937.
This neoclassical building abounds in references to the great German architects Schinkel and Klenze (to whom we owe the Glyptothek and the Alte Pinakothek). But its ashlar facade hides a steel structure very modern for the time.  From the outset, the building included an air shelter.
Carefully camouflaged, Haus der Kunst crossed the war undamaged. While all the references to nazism have been removed in the interior decoration, the gigantic proportions of the building paved with marble leave you astonished and inspires the artists invited to exhibit here. 
Yet the future of Haus der Kunst is far from guaranteed – its existence continues to 'disturb'. In the  1960s, a row of trees was planted in front to hide it; then it was left to slowly crumble for want of maintenance.
The situation has become critical. Rem Koolhaas and the architects Herzog and De Meuron have been invited to work on solutions. 
At the end of the 19th century, Munich was the German capital of fine arts. It was at this time that the fashionable painter Franz von Lenbach had a magnificent Roman villa built which rapidly became the meeting place of artistic bohemia. Today, with its ochre facade preceded by a beautiful garden it houses the biggest collection of works by the Blaue Reiter and in particular nearly all Kandinsky's engraved work.
You can therefore admire here Jawlensky, Klee, Macke, Marc and also  Alfred Kubin, the writer, drawer, engraver and illustrator of the fantastic who was to influence both Kafka and the Surrealists...
A wing is devoted to contemporary art exhibitions.
The entrance ticket to Villa Lenbach also includes admission to the Kunstbau, a contemporary art area located in the underground station Königsplatz: the darkness of this cave-like venue is ideal for video projections...
The city also boasts a vast network of contemporary art galleries. 
Their list is unending.
The cradle of the 'historic' galleries is to be found in Maximilianstrasse.
These galleries are located in prestigious buildings above ground floor boutiques selling Dior or Gucci. Begin, for instance, with Galerie Marie-José Van de Loo which celebrated a short while ago the 50th anniversary of the gallery of Marie-José's father Otto, with a selection of modern classical works signed Saura, Alechinsky, Jorn.
Another pillar of classical modernism, Galerie Thomas has for the past forty years been the absolute reference for German Expressionism. It is also devoted to classical American artists like Jim Dine.
Heading towards Schellingstrasse (a student district), the gallery of  Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers, one of Germany's most dynamic, has played a pioneering role for many women artists at their beginnings.
Also go for a stroll in and around the Schwabing district, historically the cradle of  Blaue Reiter and Munich's artistic bohemia. There are many galleries here.
A masterpiece of religious architecture: Herz Jesu Kirche
Is religious architecture still capable of coming up with a masterpiece? Perhaps a 'land' as catholic as Bavaria was necessary to prove this was possible! 
Herz Jesu Kirche has an Italian plan with a campanile separate from the main building.
The body of the church is a large glass parallelepiped.
Under this first 'skin' is hidden another parallelepiped, composed of large strips of wood, which forms the heart of this light and understated church. Herz Jesu Kirche (2000), Lachnerstrasse 8, Neuhausen. Architects Allmann Sattler Wappner. www.herzjesu-muenchen.de
Stars of architecture and design
The list of major architects who have excelled themselves in Munich is unending. In the Schwabing area, Coop Himmelb(l)au built in 2005 a hyper-modern annex to the Munich Academy of Fine Arts of neo-Renaissance style.
It is a brilliant exercise of 'deconstruction' with its overhanging volumes typical of their buoyant architecture. In 2007, this Viennese architects' practice enjoyed a resounding triumph with the opening of the fabulous BMW Welt showroom designed like a modern acropolis.
For his part, Helmut Jahn, to whom we owe in particular the Sony Center in Berlin, has built the  Highlight Business Towers, two marvellously light and transparent high-rise buildings.
But his masterpiece remains the Hotel Kempinski at Munich airport: enter the glass lobby, a dazzling crystal palace that changes colour as the day advances. It's one of Europe's most modern hotels.
Still on the topic of hotels, the Bayerishe Hof boasts a marvellous spa and swimming pool on the terrace roof, designed by Andrée Putnam.
Then take the lift directly to the basement for a drink at  Falk’s Bar located in the only room in the hotel that survived the war. The original stuccos and mouldings (1841) now bathe in a bluish halo emanating from the bar standing in a central position. 
Another well known hotel, the Sofitel Munich Bayerpost, built in the empty shell of the former post-office of Wilhelminian style, has opened a 600 sq. m. spa in the basement in a dream decor.
Turning to the architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, they are real stars in Munich thanks to the Allianz Arena (2005), Munich's iconic football stadium.
This gigantic 'life belt' changes colour depending on the team playing here: red for the Bayern, blue for the 1860 Munich and white for an international match.
These two architects, in cooperation with many others, have  located in the heart of the old town a set of courtyards and shopping arcades, the Fünf Höfe (five courtyards).
This development, one of Germany's biggest architectural projects in recent years is enjoying great success. Maximilianhöfe (2003), accessible from Maximilianstrasse, is another shopping and cultural centre of the same type, comprising in particular the new opera and a café-restaurant-grill, the Brenner, patronised by beautiful people. 
As for design, Munich is the birthplace of Konstantin Grcic [pronounce Gritchich], today's most influential designer. Elected creator of the year at the 2007 version of the Salon Maison & Objet, he trained in cabinetwork and then studied design at the famous Royal College of Arts in London before joining the studio of his mentor, British designer Jasper Morrison. In 1991 he founded his own agency in Munich.
His beginnings, marked by carpentry, showed his enthusiasm for understated and even minimalist but humorous design. For the past five years approximately, Konstantin Grcic has drawn inspiration from Czech Arts Deco.
Other designers are following suite...
He has also signed a table service in cooperation with the famous royal porcelain manufactory of Nymphenburg, founded in 1747.
These pieces of crockery are on sale at Renate Wittgenstein's concept store. 
Renate, the grand-daughter of the great philosopher, takes refuge several months a year on Capri and also travels worldwide to bring back the items she likes: clothing, bags, shoes, crockery, teas and other items. 
A Municher at heart, she speaks of Munich as a 'big village' which she readily compares to Soho in New York.
Practical information
German tourist office:www.germany-tourism.com
Munich tourist office: www.muenchen-tourist.de
Hotel Advokat
Baaderstrasse 1
D-80469 Munich
Tel. +49 (089) 21 63 10.
Known as Munich's first design hotel, the Advokat however has nothing amazing in its decor which can be summarised as a few statues in the lobby and a few paintings and photos. Its qualities lie elsewhere: quiet and spacious rooms, closeness to the historic centre (ten minutes on foot), ideal situation in the hip Gärtnerplatz district with its bars and restaurants, underground line to the airport.
Sofitel Munich Bayerpost
Bayerstrasse 12
D-80335 Munich
Tel. +49 (089) 599480
Hotel Bayerische Hof (spa and Falk’s Bar)
Promenadeplatz 2-6
D-80333 Munich
Radius Bikes / Radverleih Bike Rental
Central station opposite platform 32.
50€ deposit
Tel. +49 (089) 59 61 13
Bikes are an excellent means of transport to discover Munich which, like all German cities, has many bike paths. A 50€ deposit is required.
Münchner Galerien zeitgenössischer Kunst (Munich contemporary art galleries) www.muenchner-galerien.de.
This must-visit site lists more than 70 contemporary art galleries throughout Munich and all the events they organise (search by venue or artist). When you visit your first gallery you can also pick up the free plan  Galerien München.
Fünf Höfe
Theatinerstrasse 8
D-80333 Munich
Städtische Galerie Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau
Luisenstrasse 33
D-80333 Munich
Tel. +49 (089) 23 33 20 00,
Galerie Monika Sprüth Philomene Magers
Schellingstrasse 48
D-80799 Munich
Tel. +49 (089) 330 40 600
Pinakothek der Moderne
Barer Str. 40
D-80333 Munich
Tel. +49 (089) 23805
Haus der Kunst
Prinzregentenstr. 1
D-80538 Munich
Tel. +49 (089) 21 12 70
Galerie Marie-José Van de Loo
Maximilianstrasse 22
D-80539 Munich
Tel. +49 (089) 22 62 70
Galerie Rieder
Maximilianstrasse 22
D- 80539 Munich
Tel. + 49 (089) 29 45 17
Galerie Thomas
Maximilianstrasse 25
80539 Munich / Germany
Tel.  +49 (089) 29 00 08
Lebensart R. Wittgenstein
Blumenstrasse 17
D-80331 Munich
Tel. +49 (089) 242 346 00
Eating out
Café Arzmiller
Theatinerstraße 22
Tel. + 49 (089) 29 42 73
Very close to the Fünf Höfe, this old-time tearoom patronised exclusively or almost so by seniors, makes excellent cakes like its Sacher Torte, more Viennese than in Vienna. From the terrace, charming view over the spire of the Baroque Theatinerkirche.
Cafe Brenner
Maximilianstrasse 15
D-80539 Munich
Tel. +49 (089) 45 22 880
Located in the vaulted stables of a building dating to 1858, the Brenner pays due tribute to transalpine cuisine in a hip decor with winks to the past – stag antlers and combustion wood for the grill...
Café Kranz
Hans-Sachs Strasse 12
D-80469 Munich
Tel. +49 (089) 21 668 250
The latest address of the Gärtner district, Cafe Kranz proposes exclusively organic produce (from coffee to pasta). In a minimalist but pleasant decor the atmosphere is cosy in the morning (you can read the dailies and eat scrumptious cakes), then livens up at lunch time. 

Baroque and Italianate, Munich also boasts cutting-edge architecture: from Coop Himmelb(l)au to Herzog and De Meuron, the greatest names are represented here. Bavaria's capital is also the birthplace of today's most influential designer, Konstantin Grcic.

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