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Culture

Munich's Majestic Warehouse

On Monday, Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber opened Munich's new modern art musem, the New Pinakothek, in a pompous ceremony. But the German media criticised Stoiber for using the museum in his election campaign.

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The new museum's huge dome is an art work itself

On Monday, Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber opened Munich's new modern art museum, the New Pinakothek, in a pompous ceremony. But the German media criticised Stoiber for using the museum in his election campaign.

It is being called "Munich’s miracle museum". The New Pinothek, Munich’s new modern art gallery, took some six years to build, 12 years to plan, and decades for those pushing for a modern art gallery in the Bavarian capital to persuade the state government to build the museum at all.

But at the official opening on Monday, any troubles concerning the making of this museum failed to spoil the historic event. As prestigious German art patrons, recognised artists and politicians gathered to applaud Bavaria’s new cultural jewel, state premier Edmund Stoiber beamed that Munich, with its new museum, now equalled London with its Tate Modern and New York with its Museum of Modern Art.

The "Warehouse"

Indeed, the museum is worthy of high praise. Despite a rather drab façade and simple design (some Munich citizens call it the "warehouse"), the inside is majestic. Bright, white walls stretch glacier-like to the huge, round dome in the building’s centre, filling its huge halls with clear daylight. A massive staircase curves majestically to the top of the museum, where intricate, colourful examples of avant garde art are set in cubicles in the walls, hung from ceilings, suspended from pillars or even placed on a revolving platform.

Eröffnung Pinakothek der Moderne Videoinstallation

The New Pinakothek is dedicated to 20th century art from all over the world. Stretching over three floors and some 13,000 square metres, the museum shows art ranging from classic modernism to contemporary art. Works from world-famous painters such as Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee are shown next to renowned German artists including Joseph Beuys and Gerhard Richter.

In addition, the museum has numerous exhibits from the world of graphics and architecture, reflecting the close connection between the visual art and design, past and present, national and international art.

Jewel in European culture landscape

On Monday, Stoiber spoke of "a great day for Germany and the arts", and praised the New Pinakothek's architect Stephan Braunfels, who he said had "brought together works of art, that had otherwise been hidden away in exhibitions and warehouses across the country, in one beautiful, light-flooded building".

Stoiber described the museum as "a new jewel in the European culture landscape", and thanked the many thousands of citizens and art donors who had contributed 15 million euro ($14.5 million) to the museum's 121 million euro ($117 million) price tag.

Slow development

But despite the glowing praise, the opening was overshadowed not least by articles in the press, including the left-of-center Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung, which criticised the Bavarian state government for its foot dragging in the museum's construction.

It took years for the state government to free up the last piece of land in close proximity to the city’s other major art museums. When architect Stephan Braunfels won the commission to design the museum two years later in 1992, it took four years before he was able to start building. In these four years, the Bavarian government calculated and recalculated the museum’s costs, until finally settling on the sum of 15 million euros in private funds before building could begin.

What at first was regarded as public blackmail soon only spurred the will of the people of Munich to donate. Within months, the 15 million euro were collected.

But the difficulties continued. Surging building costs, major building flaws and the failure to meet deadlines characterised the construction of the New Pinakothek. At first, Brauenfels was made responsible for these problems. But in 2002, the state's audit office published a detailed analysis which clearly pinned the blame on the Bavarian building administration.

The troubles culminated in the opening of the museum this week. "What Berlin's museum landscape could face if Stoiber became chancellor could be sensed in the way the opening of the New Pinakothek was manipulated to an election campaign event", the Süddeutsche claimed. Indeed, no art expert from abroad was let into the building and no journalist was allowed to enter the museum before the premier - the main focus was to be the performance of Edmund Stoiber.

Only after long negotiations was the press eventually given just under an hour to walk the 13,000 square metres on opening day - long after the weekend papers had gone to print.

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