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Destination Germany

January 23, 2012

Oktoberfest and Berlinale take place every year, but here are some events unique to 2012 that are worth checking out: a controversial King, a unique cultural triad, exciting art and a special football match.

Image: picture alliance / dpa

Warrior, patron of the arts and all-powerful King of Prussia, Frederick the Great captured Germany's imagination after ascending the throne in 1740. He was a legend in his own lifetime and already considered one of the most multifaceted figures in politics by his European contemporaries. Even today, his actions raise many riddles. Germany prepares to celebrate the ruler, affectionately known as "Old Fritz," who would have turned 300 years old on January 24, 2012.

The year of Frederick the Great

Fasade of the New Palace in Potsdam
An impressive location for the Frederick exhibition: The New Palace in the Sanssouci park in PotsdamImage: picture-alliance / dpa

The grand anniversary has sparked a marathon of events in Berlin and Brandenburg, with Potsdam as the center of action. Its star attraction will not, however, be Frederick's summer residence, the Sanssouci Palace, but the significantly larger New Palace. From April 28 to October 28, the palace that Frederick designed and planned himself will accommodate a majestic exhibition titled "Friederisiko," or Frederick's Risk. Meanwhile, the German Historical Museum Berlin will be showing the exhibition "Frederick the Great - respected, revered, reviled…."

800 years of Thomana

Going further back than Frederick, this year will mark the 800th anniversary of St. Thomas Church, Boys Choir and School - three Leipzig institutions known together as "Thomana." Names such as Martin Luther and Johann Sebastian Bach are inseparably linked to the Thomana. In 2012, Leipzig will celebrate its oldest triad of cultural and educational institutions under the slogan "believing, singing, learning."

A choir in St Thomas' Church as seen from the back balcony
Still of great importance in Leipzig: the St. Thomas Church with its boys' choir and schoolImage: picture alliance/dpa

Among the highlights of the anniversary year are events and concerts, including world premiers by guest ensembles. Additional key events will be five festive compositions that are written by international composers especially for the occasion. For example, St. Thomas cantor Georg Christoph Biller wants to link his work to J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion.

On February 16, a behind-the-scenes documentary on the world famous St. Thomas Boys Choir will premiere in cinemas throughout Germany. An exhibition depicting the fascinating history of the choir in the interplay of culture and politics is set to open on March 19 in Leipzig's Museum of City History. Altogether some 250 events will mark the anniversary.

Kassel: Documenta 13

Every five years, contemporary art fans from around the world travel to the northern Hessian province to find out what is new in the world of art. Documenta opens for the 13th time on June 9 in Kassel. A hundred artists have been invited, but their identity, as always, remains secret. Just a few names have already been revealed: William Kentridge of South Africa, Rene Gabri of Iran, and Goshka Macuga of Poland.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei pointing at the camera taking his picture
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was a guest in 2007 at Documenta 12Image: AP

Documenta runs for exactly 100 days until September 16, 2012 - but the timeframe should not be taken too literally. As a matter of fact, Documenta 13 has already begun. According to Artistic Director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the event's website is part of the art on show already reveals some of the planned exhibits.

New for the 13th edition is that many objects of art will be created on location. "We are not just exhibiting the works of art in museums, but also at unusual locations," said Documenta's Managing Director Bernd Leifeld. "New spaces are being made available." These new exhibition spaces are scattered all over the city.

At the 12th edition of the Documenta in 2007, some 754,000 art fans were recorded in Kassel - so hotel beds may become scarce.

Made in Germany Two

The contemporary art show Made in Germany Zwei or Made in Germany Two from May 17 to August 19 in Hannover is supposed to offer a counter balance.

"We want to let the world know that there is more than just the Documenta," said René Zechlin, director of the art association. On a smaller scale, more exciting exhibits are made possible. "Berlin has become the center for contemporary art. We want to focus on that," Zechlin stressed.

On show will be the works of some 40 young international artists, who mainly reside in Berlin. Among them are Omer Fast, born in 1972 in Jerusalem, Sicilian-born Rosa Barba, and Britain's Simon Fujiwara. Some of the Made in Germany artists will also be exhibiting at Documenta.

A person studying a series of portraits by artist Gerhard Richter
Contemporary artist Gerhard Ritcher turn 80 - Berlin celebratesImage: picture alliance / Photoshot

Berlin Biennale

In order to see art you might as well just head to the capital for the 7th Berlin Biennale from April 27 to July 1, 2012. Since it was founded in 1998, it has been enthusiastically received and has become one of the most important events for contemporary art world wide. Particularly interesting this time: The provocative Russian performance artists from "Voina" have been appointed as curators for the event.

Richter retrospective

If all of that is too experimental for your liking, Gerhard Richter, one of the leading contemporary artists will be celebrating his 80th birthday on February 9. A few days later, the New National Gallery in Berlin will be exhibiting a grand retrospective of his work. On display will be some 150 paintings from his different creative phases, among them the iconic picture of "Ema" descending stairs (1966). The exhibition was compiled in cooperation with the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Tate Modern in London.

And in sports

People standing on a hill at dusk photographing Munich's Allianz Arena with it's tyre shape lit in pink
Art as well, but mainly stadiumImage: AP

And if you have had enough of art and history, on May 19, for the first time since 1997, the final of the football Champions League will be held in Germany - in Munich, just as it was 15 years ago. Back then, Borussia Dortmund won the final which was played at the Olympic stadium. This year, Bayern Munich is hoping to win the title at their Allianz Arena home ground.

Author: Oliver Samson / Sue Cox (dpa)
Editor: Kate Bowen