English Summary – Kolumba 2/2011


Prague archbishop Dominik Duka stresses in his introduction word the importance of art for human life as well as for theology, which often found in art a source of consideration, its locus theologicus. Art should also be a stimulus for communication, for dialogue. There should be a dialogue among the artwork, its author and the observer, as well as an inducement to conversation among visitors of art on various topics – feelings and questions put before us by the work of art. A dialogue about art in the last three years has been developed also between Prague and Cologne – and its fruit is this issue of the Revue Salve, dedicated to Kolumba – Art Museum of the Archdiocese of Cologne.

Church as a Bearer of Culture Today
Interview with Joachim Cardinal Meisner

The Archbishop of Cologne as the main guarantor and mover of the whole project expresses his joy – three years after the launching of the project – of such a wide acceptance of Kolumba. It indicates a need for society to have a provoking confrontation with the existential experience, which art can provide. He observes that it paid – despite all the difficulties – to provide architect Zumthor and the leading team of the museum with sufficient time to develop their own concept and uniqueness of a building, the building, which – according to the Cardinal – can be called a “sacral building in dimensions of the museum”. Cardinal Meisner touches also a wider issue of the relationship of the Church and culture – theological reasons for supporting culture, the broad significance of Cologne’s Cathedral, as well as various activities held there, etc. He stresses, inter alia, that we should find again the sovereignty of trust in the work of artists. We should be able to bear and endure, when artists critically measure the Church by Christian values and the way how we live according to them.

Kolumba – Museum as an Aesthetic Laboratory
Interview with Stefan Kraus

An extensive interview with the current director of Kolumba begins in the last room of the museum where a large window offers to the spectator a view of Cologne’s Cathedral and of the City. He goes through key points of Zumthor’s architecture and uncovers the meaning of each of them. On the selected examples of the current exhibition Noli me tangere! – and also by comparing the way of exposure of exhibits to the ones of previous exhibitions – Kraus presents his own concept as well as goals he has in mind when the exhibitions of Kolumba are prepared. The meaning of the museum, as seen by the Kolumba team, shows in the light of the quotation from one of the Günter Grass’ novels: “In air-conditioned museums art does not remember its own roots”. Many contemporary museums, according to Kraus, are far too similar. It is often put as a starting point for the awaited mass of visitors to the museum. The director of Kolumba maintains, that a museum ought to legitimize itself over and over again and all the time in a new way, to be an ideal place for art, the only one that should provide the criteria for presenting collections. It has to provide space enough for ideas, emotions and questions, which its aesthetic presence raises in the viewer. The museum should invite visitors to deal with art in the same way, in which artists themselves deal with it on a daily basis.

Friedhelm Mennekes SJ
Another View

Art in Cologne’s Kolumba Collection

Professor Mennekes belonged to the personalities who once gave an artistic profile of Cologne, the founder of the Kunst-Station of St. Peter. In his essay he reflects the nature of Kolumba. He tries to outline the history of the collection, the transformation of its character since 1989 when Joachim Plotzek became a new director and assembled a team of experts – Stefan Kraus, Ulrike Surmann, and Katharina Winnekes. They were able to grow together within a year to an extraordinarily high quality and creative team. The main interest of the author, however, is grounded in character of the collection and the way of its presentation. The works of ancient, modern and contemporary art, chosen for the collection and mutually confronted in a whole spectrum of production, should be of such a nature that an observer would be able to discover something special, by form as well as by motif, in the same time familiar and new. According to Mennekes in Kolumba art is always about art as art, not a name, not a price, not a historically contingent evaluation. In terms of the programme – the concern about art is the first line just to appear. It is why the works are not submitted to the usual rational consumption. There are no explanations, no information panels, but calm, thinking, wonder. Although the museum is under the Church administration, it is not concerned only in confessional religion, but mainly (and maybe just because it is a Church museum) in broader focus on human being, on service to his/her existential dimension.

Friedhelm Mennekes SJ
Space of my Breathing: Eastern Tower of Cologne’s Kolumba

Professor Mennekes begins an analysis of his “most favorite space” in Kolumba by a metaphor of the Basque artist Eduardo Chillida, who entering the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul had the impression that he is entering the lungs of Johann Sebastian Bach. Next the author offers a philosophical reflection on the nature of space and various kinds of space. He walks through the building and stops in the east tower of Kolumba and recalls that everything coming from the East is in the Western way of thinking, endowed with symbolic meaning, which here in this area is intensified by a specific play of the light; light falls from above through the large window and changes its constellation during the course of day. In the final passage Mennekes pays more attention to the installation and confrontation of two sculptures and two paintings that have already been exhibited in the tower. The works in question are: Berlin Earthbound by Rebecca Horn, Meat-Sculpture with butterflies by Paul Thek, abstract paintingPainting # 1-95 (Triptych) by Joseph Marioni, and narrative-devotional painting Host Distribution from the late Middle Ages.

Selected Works of Art of Kolumba

The block presents various texts connected with works of art exhibited in Kolumba. They present a writing style about art characteristic for Kolumba, leading not to a positivistic description of the work of art and its mere categorization into the traditional categories, but to an understanding of its impression and in a manner of speaking also to understanding of its place in the complex of the museum.

If all that I Have Planned Were Realised, I Wouldn’t be so Happy
Interview with Architect Peter Zumthor

The architect, author of the new building of Kolumba, talks about his beginnings as an architect, about factors that influenced him, such as his initial artisanal studies, about the political stage of the ’70s influenced by Marxism, about the influence of modern American artists as Walter de Maria, Michael Heizer, Donald Judd, Bruce Nauman, etc. He mentions architectural practice in his studio, receiving orders, the creation of models – how their sculptural and material quality helps to find the final shape; he talks about young architects working in his studio. He points to his look at Swiss architecture as such, and expresses his appreciation to the fact that the ETH in Zurich has always maintained a kind of learning which isn’t taken in fashion styles; the architecture is not taught as a free art, but still as an art of building, taking into account location, function and use. Zumthor mentions his relationship to the work of Rudolf Schwarz and Oscar Niemeyer and also to the Pritzker Prize, the highest award in architecture, recently bestowed to him. In the end he reveals some new experiences he was enriched by during the construction of Cologne’s Kolumba.

Peter Zumthor
New Building of the Art Museum of the Archdiocese of Cologne

Thoughts to the Project

The text accompanying a winning architectural design from 1997 provides a remarkable glimpse into its author’s mind. It summarizes main aims of the project, but surprisingly considers also its weak points. The text is documented by architectural drawings presented in the competition, and by the plans of the execution. In a nutshell a long journey is revealed, which was still necessary to walk through between the result of the competition and the opening of the museum.

Stefan Kraus
An Aesthetic Moment
An Attempt to Describe a Moment without Words

Stefan Kraus, present director of Kolumba, in his article deals with the effects of a work of art on a person, with the moment when the imaginary spark between the work and its recipient ignites. To understand this crucial moment of art – which he understands as emotionality expressed without words, where intuition plays a significant role – we ought to accept an artwork as our counterpart, providing us with an immediate experience of the reality of being. Therefore, according to Kraus, these moments are not only the moments of understanding with an artwork, but they are also moments of resonance with the world, with the creation itself. Artist and observer achieve this dimension of artwork by an unconditional “leaving room for the arrival of truth” and by openness to the work of art. The aesthetic moment in this way can mean a challenge to our very own existence; it can lead us up to the edge of our capacities; can give us joy and happiness, as well as sorrow and pain. And it is just in this combination of beauty and truth, which includes even aspects which repel us and which we perceive as ugliness containing the pain, where the central message of Christian aesthetics lies. According to Kraus, it is the museum, where aesthetic education should take place. Nevertheless, art is not in possession of the history of art, as also religion is not in possession of theology. It belongs to itself alone, and a person is not allowed to dispose freely with its main characteristic, which is to reveal unknown, intuitively experienced and believed. Therein lies its quality, and therefrom results the necessity to act as an observer of art in a creative way, towards which end a good museum – like Kolumba – should lead to.

Tomáš Halík
A Moment of Faith

Tomáš Halík, the professor at the Charles University in Prague, the parish priest of Academic parish, an internationally known author of many books about faith in today’s world, responds in his article to the contribution of Stefan Kraus. He is looking for a parallel to an aesthetic moment described by Kraus, and refers to the moment when the faith is born. Halík defines faith as a primary openness to dialogue with God, drawing a person into his very own story. From the side of man it is always an existential act reaching beyond the superficial enjoying beauty of creation, and it draws man’s attention to the dark aspects of the world. Faith has therefore always had strong paradoxical features. Yet it is an invitation to freedom, to forgiveness and to fullness of life. Halík emphasizes the importance of dialogue with non-believers, who help Christians to correct distorted images of God – caused again and again by human weakness. When talking about prayer, Halík mentions viewing of our own life as a story intended to read by us ourselves, or to be perceived as a work of art, which –though created by someone else – reveals in a way the truth about our own selves.

Cologne’s KolumbaChronology

The prospect of the most important data summarizes and vividly illustrates development of the current form of the museum. In broad outline there is given the general context of the City of Cologne and the original St. Kolumba Church, which was destroyed during the Second World War.