Munich in English - selected by independent Locals for Cosmopolitans, Newcomers and Residents - since 1989

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May 2004

Own Art

Original artwork need not be expensive

I have an image in my mind: a large, corpulent lady reclining on a chair in a vivid pink room, with a tiny man perched on her knee. She looks content and he is smiling like a child, safe with its mother. This image is a painting that I saw briefly almost 20 years ago in the window of an art gallery in the Hofgarten. I was transfixed by this picture and delighted to discover a price tag of only DM 500, which, though beyond my student means, seemed reasonable for something so covetable. For weeks I considered ways of financing this purchase, but without success.

This was my first experience with “affordable art,” a concept that has gained much popularity in recent years. In this age of cheap reproducibility, owning a piece of original art has been given a special buzz and probably the only reason why many of us have not been rushing out to buy our very own painting or sculpture is an underlying uncertainty as to what constitutes art and the fear of purchasing something that, in our money-obsessed times, is of no definable value. Bearing in mind the variety of art available to us in a city like Munich, it seems a shame to be constrained by such considerations. And even if you have no cash to spend on paintings, there is plenty of fun to be had in exploring the city’s art galleries and looking at what is on offer.

A visit to the Kunstnetzwerk, a multiple art space, which includes an art supply shop, a gallery and a bar (Reichenbachstr. 14), is a must for art “ditherers.” Run with enormous enthusiasm and panache by Jörg Heitsch and his wife, Ulla, Kunstnetzwerk (translated as “art network”), which has just celebrated its 10th anniversary, was inspired, among other things, by the emergence of the Internet. Heitsch, who is a painter himself, saw the advent of this electronic medium as a way to free modern art of the conventional strictures imposed by galleries and their owners. By allowing artists, art enthusiasts and gallery owners to come into contact with one another via the Internet, the accessibility of art would be increased a thousand-fold.

At Kunstnetzwerk and, of course, on their Website, you will certainly always find new and original art, which you can either admire on location or take home. Asked to pinpoint his criteria for choosing which artists to exhibit, Heitsch mentions three main points. First, that the idea behind the artist’s work is a good and convincing one, second that this idea leaves room for development and lastly that the quality of the execution is as good as the idea. Before, however, this becomes too theoretical, a look at what Heitsch displays and sells will give some idea of just how infectious and fun looking at and collecting modern art can be. Ottmar Hörl, one of the few German artists who Heitsch has displayed in recent years, has a provocative and humorous approach to his work. Visitors to Kunstnetzwerk can purchase his elegantly packaged soap (€ 15), stamped with the word Unschuld (innocence): to wash your hands in innocence means to wash your hands of something unpleasant. Altogether more serious, but just as thought-provoking is the work of Ghanaian artist Kwesi Owuso-Ankomah, who uses traditional Ghanaian symbols and combines these with images of the human face and body. The results are strong, almost stark pictures that ask to be studied, discussed, interpreted. A limited edition of multiples by Owuso-Ankomah are available from Kunstnetzwerk for € 100. The current exhibition at the gallery is called “Fotorama.” Georg Küttinger, an architect and photographer, is showing a series of photomontages. Panoramic shots, a grove of olive trees, say, dappled in sunshine, or the remnants of a vast, plastic greenhouse, where skeletal structures decorated with wisps of white plastic create a ghostly landscape. These pictures, though not all beautiful in a conventional sense, have the kind of power that make you want to possess them. And for around € 1,200 you can do so.

Anyone spending this kind of money may want a little time to deliberate over their decision and for this reason Heitsch organizes a regular art lounge event. On May 6, for example, the art lounge opens for a night. Pick up one of the invitation cards from Kunstnetzwerk and you can spend an evening enjoying Küttinger’s work—while sipping a cocktail from the basement bar and listening to some cool music. The event opens at 9 pm and goes on to the early hours. On the other hand, you may not make it any further than the passageway that leads to gallery and decide on the spot to purchase a multiple of one of artist Volker Hildebrandt’s pictures from the series “Godessess” on show there. Cheeky and Warholesque, Hildebrandt’s multiple shots of famous heads—Marilyn Monroe, Romy Schneider, Madonna—are vibrant images that would grace any home.

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