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As Folkwang Reopens, Europe’s Oldest Contemporary Arts Museum Is Suddenly Its Newest

There was a long, snaking line of children, little old ladies, and art lovers of all ages as The Folkwang Museum in Essen, Germany reopened earlier this week after a three-year restoration and expansion project whose design was spearheaded by British architect, David Chipperfield. The little old ladies and kids were, of course, just the right crowd to help reopen what is, after all, the “People’s Hall”—a clean, open space that embraces the German tendency toward efficiency in form while forwarding contemporary art from around the world in the heart of the country’s industrial region. Only thirty years younger than Germany as a nation itself, the Folkwang was perhaps the first museum dedicated solely to contemporary or “Modern” art in Europe when it opened in 1902, and it is certainly its longest lasting. As the museum’s excellent collection of Van Goghs, Rothkos, Cézannes, Gauguins (his “Barbarous Tales” appears above), and other Modern icons grew, Folkwang became itself a relic, making the 30,000 new square feet of exhibition space the perfect thing to usher in 2010, the year that Essen has been selected to be one of Europe’s Capitals of Culture. Further, the Folkwang will explore its own history over the next year with the upcoming “The Most Beautiful Museum in The World” exhibition, dedicated to those years when the Nazi Party fought against the perceived threat of “Degenerate Art” and all the earliest degenerate art museum could do was wait for better, wiser times.

Folkwang Museum
60 Bismarckstraße
Essen, Germany
+49 20-1884-5301
Images: Photos by Julian Stratenschulte for Der Westen, painting, “Barbarous Tales”, Paul Gauguin, 1902, courtesy of The Folkswang.

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