September 27, 2007

Arp is Art

If you've ever been stumped by the 3-letter crossword puzzle clue "Dadaist", I'm going to do you a favor! The answer is "ARP" as in Hans or Jean, both the same person it just depends if you are in Germany or in France.

Today I am in Germany on an Arp excursion. Specifically, I am here to attend the opening of a brand new museum dedicated to the work of this founding member of the Dada movement and later a Surrealist. In the small town of Rolandseck, located on the Rhine river between Bonn and Koblenz, is the "Arp Stiftung", the Foundation that oversees the legacies of both Hans/Jean and his first wife, the artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp. For 20 years the Foundation has worked to provide scholars, collectors and institutions with information and expertise and serves as a central clearing point for all things Arp-related. Now their mission has expanded and last evening the dream of their late director, Johannes Wasmuth, was realized with the opening of a fabulous new research center and museum dedicated to the promotion of the work of the Arps.

Just as Hans and Sophie often collaborated on creating works of art, this new institution represents a remarkable professional partnership between the German Arp Stiftung and their architect of choice, the American Richard Meier. Years of planning and development have resulted in a temple to art that seeks to incorporate the magnificent vista into its contemporary art-filled interior.

Both the story and the setting are dramatic. The entrance to the museum is through the original train station for the town of Rolandseck. Built in the 19th Century, the station was an example of elegant design that had become obsolete and the property had fallen into disrepair. The Foundation acquired the rundown building, and the acreage on the hill above it, and set about converting it into a modern research and exhibition facility with a concert hall and café. They continued with the expansion by commissioning Richard Meier, of Getty Institute fame, to create a facility that could showcase not only their own fabulous collection of works by Arp, but rotating shows of predominantly German artists. Now, with the opening of the new white museum on the hill, the visitor travels through time and space, from the charm of the old station, via a tunnel and then a glass elevator bored inside the hill to emerge in the bright open modern building where one can overlook the Rhine while enjoying the art. What a combination!

The Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck is going to make a major splash in the both the art and architecture worlds! It was a privilege to be a part of the opening festivities and I would like to thank and congratulate the curator, Walburga Krupp, for a magnificent evening. Arp IS Art!

Hans Arp's Sculpture "The Bird" with the Rhine in the background

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