Winterthur, Switzerland: 26 January 2016
I have very little experience of Winterthur as a tourist as I work as a teacher here twice a week.
Ute, my wife, is constantly complaining that I need to get out more and acquire some culture in my life.
And whenever she is at home I allow her to drag me to the occasional museum or concert, theatre play or restaurant.
Letting her do so is not only good for the relationship but she hopes that exposure to a little culture might have a civilising effect on the Canadian barbarian she married.
It´s nice that she remains hopeful!
I have spoken of Winterthur before in this blog…
(See Life Among the Winti of this blog.)
But I have not done much exploring of this city, the 6th biggest in Switzerland, before.
With the exception of a job interview in St. Gallen this morning, my day was free today, so why not see a few of the museums in Winterthur that I had proudly boasted about?
Winterthur´s most popular attraction is the Oskar Reinhart Collection in two locations: Römerholz (Roman Wood) and Stadtgarten (City Garden).
Oskar Reinhart Collection, Römerholz, Winterthur
Oskar Reinhart Collection, Stadtgarten, Winterthur
This large art gallery was the life´s work of local industrialist Oskar Reinhart, who channeled a large proportion of his vast wealth into acquiring fine works of art.
“Oskar Reinhart (1885–1965), born into an old family of Winterthur merchants, was one of the most important art collectors and patrons in Switzerland.
His mother, Lilly Reinhart-Volkart (1855–1916), was heir to his grandfather’s company – Volkart Brothers, which was founded in 1851.
His father Theodor Reinhart (1849–1919) expanded the company and successfully pioneered trade between India and continental Europe.
As early as 1907, when still a trainee in his parents’ company, Oskar Reinhart began to collect old master and modern prints.
He did not, however, acquire the bulk of his art collection until after his father’s death.
Until 1924, Oskar Reinhart remained an active – and until 1939 a silent – partner of the Volkart trading company.
Thus, he devoted himself entirely to expanding his art collection.
In addition, he served in various public bodies such as the Gottfried Keller Foundation…”
(See Down the Rhine, Up the Glatt: the Poet´s Path of this blog.)
“While his brother George (1877–1955) and Werner (1884-1951) controlled the company until 1952.
In 1924, Oskar Reinhart purchased a mansion at Am Römerholz, which he converted into his private residence and which he furnished with exquisite works of art.
In 1936, Reinhart helped the Munich-based art dealer Fritz Nathan to immigrate into Switzerland.
In 1941, he also attempted – together with Fritz Nathan and Walter Feilchenfeldt – to enable Max Liebermann’s widow to emigrate to Switzerland.
Furthermore he was mindful not to purchase any artwork from dubious sources during the Third Reich.
He did, however, under the impression of the events of time, create the Oskar Reinhart Foundation on 10 October 1940 and donated his works by German, Austrian and Swiss artists from the 18th to early 20th century to this foundation.
Due to the War, the old school building adjacent to the Stadtgarten that had been remodelled as a museum for the foundation was not opened until 1951.
Reinhart left the collection of paintings and drawings by German, Dutch, English, Italian, Spanish and French Old Masters as well as Impressionists that he had kept in his private house Römerholz to the Swiss Government, while his print collection was given to the Oskar Reinhart Foundation.
The Oskar Reinhart Museum houses around 500 paintings and sculptures from the end of the 18th to the mid-20th century from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as well as around 7,000 prints and drawings from the 15th to 20th century.
In terms of German art from the 19th century, the Museum is the worldwide leading institution outside of Germany regarding its wealth and quality.
The criteria that Julius Meier-Graefe, Hugo von Tschudi and Alfred Lichtwark had set in 1906 at the Centennial Exhibition of German Art in Berlin were decisive for the Collection as Swiss and Austrian artists were also represented in this exhibition.
This event was significant, because it triggered a revaluation of German paintings:
Everything academic and historically emotive was excluded.
Instead, the exhibition simply featured romantic poetry in image form, living naturalism in realism and the picturesque.
At the same time, artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, Georg Friedrich Kersting and Carl Blechen were rescued from oblivion thanks to this exhibition, whilst the exhibition represented the transnational significance of Hans von Marées, Wilhelm Leibl and Hans Thoma for the first time ever.
Oskar Reinhart saw the legendary Centennial Exhibition and integrated more than twenty works that were exhibited there into his Collection throughout the course of his life.
This included renowned paintings by Arnold Böcklin, Wilhelm Leibl and Anselm Feuerbach.”
(Sammelung Oskar Reinhart)
This is all well and good to know…
But even though it is a Tuesday, the admissions line to see the Museum at Stadtgarten stretches down the broad staircase, along the street and around the corner.
I count, conservatively, at least 300 visitors waiting to get in, with waiting time at least an hour.
Though it is not quite as long as the lines at the Louvre in Paris, I have little patience for standing for a long time in a long line to visit an overly crowded museum.
Instead I head to the nearby Gewerbemuseum.
The Gewerbemuseum (in English: trade museum) has little to do with industry and more to do with pop culture – the entirety of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, images, and other phenomena that are within the mainstream of Western culture today.
Heavily influenced by mass media, this collection of ideas permeates the everyday lives of our society.
The most common pop culture categories are: entertainment (movies, music, TV), sports, news (people/places in the news), politics, fashion/clothes, technology, and slang.
It could be viewed as trivial, superficial, consumerist, sensationalist and corrupt or simply good for a laugh.
Three highlights of the Museum today:
- “Nirvana: Strange forms of pleasure” exhibition
- the Kellenberger Clock and Watch Collection
- the Materials Archive
I begin with the clock collection.
“Konrad Kellenberger (1907-1976) was born in Wienacht, Canton Appenzell.
After his training as a metal worker, he was employed as a lab technician at the Winterthur branch of Zürich´s University of Applied Sciences.
Already at 18 years old, Kellenberger began to collect clocks and watches, acquiring a great deal of knowledge in this field.
As a self-taught horologist he restored much of his budding collection himself.”
Kellenberger was a true independent scholar.
(See Underdog University of this blog.)
His collection has attracted visitors from all over the world.
It is a fascinating journey through time.
(See On Time of this blog.)
Upstairs, NIRVANA is remarkable by its contrast.
“The desire for sensual pleasure and seduction is constantly inspiring new fantasies and pleasure can still be experienced through all the senses, even in the digital age.
The NIRVANA exhibition uses over 200 objects and installations to explore the influence of the erotic on design, fashion and contemporary art, showing how the form, materials and levels of meaning of erotic and fetishistic worlds can be interpreted anew.
Artists and designers from all over the world make use of secret hints, playful allusions and humorous references to ‘the best thing in the world’ in order to present the sensual universe in a fresh way.
Superior workmanship and quality materials, such as leather, glass, velvet and precious metals, which we associate with luxury goods and traditional craftsmanship, feature strongly.
The exhibition is at once a plea for a creative, fantasy-rich approach to the erotic and a tribute to the seductive force of form and material.”
Carrie Bradshaw would wax poetic over the high heels selection.
To my innocent country boy´s eyes I am in a fetish museum.
Clearly, Toto, I am no longer in Canada.
Fifty Shades of Gray is vanilla in Nirvana´s many flavours, and I am discovering there are many tastes I have yet to experience.
I flee upstairs to the Materials Archive, hoping to calm my racing pulse and disoriented emotions.
I find answers to questions I did not know I was asking:
“Which fragrance makes leather seductive?
What does silk, latex or rubber smell like?
How does amber and musk preserve the scent of a human being?” (Gewerbemuseum)
Above: Gabrielle Anwar/Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman
“The scent of materials is a series of odoriferous and listening stations focusing on the olfactory peculiarities of sensual materials.
You can sniff wax and resins, explore the attraction of scents such as iris, sandalwood or spruce, sample an aphrodisiac or discover the difference between the smell of a two hundred franc note and a cookbook.”
Learn what the nose knows.
My mind is dazed, my senses overwhelmed, my imagination aflame.
What remained of my innocence is lost.
I have reached Nirvana.