An Unexpected Destination

The city of Köln was never intended as a destination when we set out on our adventure, but before long we found ourselves there.  As its train station is one of the main stops on a number of routes through Europe, we passed through it several times and were taken by the view of Köln’s massive cathedral.  Aptly named the Dom, this staggering Gothic structure (under construction for a period of 600 years) dominates (see what I did there?) the entire skyline, visible from most points in the city, and became the reason for this unexpected destination.

However, for me it was the Kolumba Museum that proved the jewel of this city.

Kolumba Museum comes with an extraordinary story.  During WWII this particular church was bombed to the ground. When residents investigated the rubble afterwards, though, they found the Madonna still standing. Thereafter she was dubbed Madonna of the Ruins. In a twist, what the bombing uncovered was the ancient ruins of a Roman house that the church had been built upon. Since, the ruins of both the Roman house and the church have been beautifully preserved as part of what has become an art museum.  Using stone of the same colour, the new museum sympathetically rises out of the ruins. On the ground floor, you can walk on platforms around what remains of both the Roman house and the Church, (cunningly but subtly lit by means of leaving gaps between some of the new bricks) with the first and second floor dedicated to housing an the Church’s collection of historical and contemporary art. Everything about this museum was unexpected and hugely satisfying; it’s one of my highlights for many, many reasons.

On show when we arrived was a restrained but fascinating exhibition on ‘thinking’.  Combining the museum’s own collection of historical religious art and artefacts with contemporary art, it hosted works from Joseph Beuys to John Cage to local Köln artists, from sound works to installation, from historical artist studies on perspective to the museum’s architect’s notes and notebooks on his thoughts on how to build this remarkable structure.  My favourite room was darkened, apart from tall, thin lit glass cases that held the Archdiocese’s reliquary.  Set back amongst these on a plinth of its own was a live feed from a library, housed in a finely furnished container in Antarctica.  This library was 10 years in the making and created by Lutz Fritsch.  The books have been chosen by selected scientists and artists.  The counterpoint of these two sets of artefacts was something quite special.

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Now, finally, I will get to the point: one of the rooms housed a collection of artist books, with an extraordinary variety of interpretations on artist books and an enviable list of names: On Kawara (be still my beating heart!), Andy Warhol, Carl Andre, Marcel Broodthaers and many more.  The photos are of the catalogue: much to Justin’s bemusement I bought this catalogue, all €35 and not insignificant weight of it, knowing full well that it’s entirely in German.  I wish I could add more at this point, something more reflective on what’s to be found in this excellent collection, but, not surprisingly, I had to post the book back to my mum not long after purchase to await future perusal.

Sorry about the length of this post, will sign off now. -Gabrielle

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