Panorama of Munich, Germany.

A treat of contemporary art in Munich’s Haus der Kunst

I can still hear the water splashing and picture the sharp surfboard turns as I walk towards the museum. The occasional cheer as a surfer succeeds with jumping on the surfboard or when a series of turns impress the crowd, most dressed in waterproof surf suits. As I walk off, columns rise behind foliage and the sounds of the rushing water dissipate. The columns stretch far off in the distance and they look old, almost tired. The contrast with the happy and easygoing Eisbach surf spot is very real. A few steps lead up to a small shy entrance that does not fit with the general impression of the museum. It is the Haus der Kunst, the contemporary art museum. I decide to enter and there I’m met by a man with thick glasses, wearing a suit, and with a beaming smile. He hears my question to the receptionist and takes charge by coming over to tell me more about this fabulous museum. His enthusiasm is clear and genuine, and he beckons me to the room where the story of the building is told by ways of posters and black and white movies.

He begins to tell me how this museum became part of an effort to show a very skewed view of art due to the political times. Fast forward to our times. Nowadays contemporary art exhibitions are held here regularly. The one that is opening the day I arrive will be on for almost half a year before it leaves room for another exhibition. We talked about the architecture and the English garden next door. An old fashion show is playing on a television screen behind him, showing a fashion show from 1949. The English garden was called that even in the 1930s, as the architect had a fascination for the large gardens in England.

But I want to know more about the building. His eagerness to explain is very much appreciated. His pleasant demeanor makes me feel welcome in this museum of contemporary art. I am no expert. I am a curious traveler with a more-than-usual interest in Greco-Roman architecture. And the columns outside have caught my attention.

Nearby, surfers are riding the never-ending wave at the Eisbachwelle. I stumbled upon this museum in pursuit of a surfer’s happiness and joy. But I am impressed by this gem that features new exhibitions regularly. Seen from the outside, the architecture with the columns gives a passer-by the idea that it is an official building. But after a visit inside, it is clear that the museum is bubbling with activity in the realm of contemporary art.

Increased visitor numbers in 2022

Visitors in 2022 increased slightly compared to 2019 and 2018. The planned exhibitions are always announced months in advance which makes it easier for curious visitors planning a visit to Munich. It is advised to buy time slot tickets in advance, although one can buy a ticket upon arrival. The so-called Haus tickets, large and small, offer access to the entire museum and its exhibitions and the exhibitions except the Ostgalerie, respectively.

For those looking for the history of the building

There is a book, I am told, that describes the political background of the museum. So I visit the bookshop. Oh dear. Hundreds and hundreds of books. One table is dedicated to the past exhibitions. Then there are the bookshelves with books on so many sub-topics in the world of contemporary art. I will confess here and now, that my vision blurred. I did not know how much there was to know about contemporary art. Book titles such as “The Beauty of everyday things”, “Less is Enough”, and “Grundformen” stare back at me as I stand there surprised. Going the easy route, I pick up one book for my German studies, not quite ready to dip my feet in the depth of the specialized literature at hand.

For those who are interested in learning more about the current exhibitions in Haus der Kunst, there are tours organized on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. During the tour, a guide will discuss the key elements of the displayed art to encourage discussions with the visitors.

Visit Haus der Kunst for the art, or simply for the architecture

The Haus der Kunst brings the present toward the future with its contemporary art, all while preserving the story of the past. And maybe that is why this Museum of Contemporary Art stands out to me. The word contemporary is reflected in the mirror of history which gives the visitor and art enthusiast a way of reflecting. Because that one has to do, and willingly in my case. To enter the Haus der Kunst is to enter a closed circuit of time, where instances of moments are kept, be they dark or light, and where artists of our age can present their art to a world that is relentlessly pushed forward in time, a second at a time.

Should you visit? For the art, the building’s architecture, or the bookstore? The answer is a resounding yes.