"The Minsk. Kunsthaus in Potsdam" opens with two exhibitions - culture

It's a nice punchline: Private capital saves a showpiece of real-socialist architecture. Well will "The Minsk Kunsthaus in Potsdam" opened, all free tickets this weekend have long been taken. It is the latest museum project Hasso Plattner Foundation in Potsdam. She had also financed the reconstruction of a baroque palace on Alter Markt for her Barberini Museum. Hasso Plattner comes from the old Federal Republic, he is a new citizen of Potsdam. The new citizens who moved here from the West, including many cultural workers like Günter Jauch, did a lot to ensure that it looked as if Prussian Potsdam with its palaces and gardens had grown dear to them and that all the GDR heritage was rather a nuisance.

The "Café Minsk", a light terrace restaurant, was built between 1971 and 1977 according to plans by the architect Karl-Heinz Birkholz on the Brauhausberg with a view of the Havel and the city. The SED district leadership resided in the war school built in Wilhelminism up the slope behind the restaurant. The mighty building with its towering tower was nicknamed the "Kremlin". When the Brandenburg state parliament moved in here in 1991, the decades-long vacancy and decay of Café Minsk began. Local politicians did next to nothing to counteract this.

With broken windows and graffiti, Café Minsk was almost in ruins when it was due to be demolished in 2018 for a real estate project. The state parliament had already moved to the rebuilt city palace a few years ago. It was only when it was almost too late that supporters of the preservation of Café Minsk found more and more support in the city public. However, it remained a kind of act of mercy by the well-funded Hasso Plattner Foundation when in 2019 its namesake personally decided to acquire the dilapidated building because he was impressed by the architectural substance and to transform it into a museum primarily for the works of art created in the GDR. which he acquired for his collection.

The overall external appearance is reminiscent of the Minsk café, but the museum and restaurant architecture are two different things

Even from afar, the new "Minsk" shows that no savings were made here. The approach from afar, the perception from a distance is appropriate because this building did not stand around as a solitaire from the start, but was embedded in the landscape and surroundings. From the banks of the Havel, a series of stairs led to the café, which from afar might be reminiscent of Sanssouci, past fountains that interspersed the terrain with elements of a water landscape.

The Café Minsk lost its former neighbor, the elegantly curved indoor swimming pool, during its period of decline. Anyone who stands next to Wolfgang Mattheuer's life-size bronze sculpture "Mann mit Maske" from the terrace in front of the museum's entrance looks down at the ugly, bulky swimming pool successor "blu".

The stairways, the colonnades around the transparent foyer, the entire external appearance is reminiscent of the Café Minsk, but the museum and restaurant architecture are two different things, and so the Linearama architectural office from Genoa built a new building on the inside, incorporating original motifs. Above all, this includes the wide spiral staircase to the upper floor, where the bar is also reminiscent of its predecessor. From the entrance, in the background of the stairs and on the balustrades that frame the stairwell, you can see the distinctive wall tiles that come from the Brandenburg workshops of Hedwig Bollhagen. Mirrors enlarge the space around the bar without the dimensions and range of a restaurant being thought of here. The new center of the whole are the exhibition rooms on the ground floor and upper floor.

Potsdam primarily presents itself to international tourism as a park and art landscape, with grottos and picture galleries

The founding director of the museum, Paola Malavassi, has announced that the new Minsk will also be a venue for music, performance, readings, a public space in which the foyer, bar and terrace will also be freely accessible to those who do not want to visit an exhibition .

In recent years, the enthusiasm for the reconstruction of baroque buildings in Potsdam, for example at the Barberini Museum, has often been combined with the painting of soft-focus images of Prussia. The war school behind the Kunsthaus Minsk is a reminder that the military in Prussia did not only exist because someone had to guard the beautiful palaces and gardens. Above all, Potsdam presents itself to international tourism as a park and art landscape, with grottos and picture galleries, with a view of the lake landscape from the Belvedere on Pfingstberg.

One can assume that against the background of this historical gravity of landscape and gardens in Potsdam, the choice of the topic for the opening exhibition of the Kunsthaus Minsk was not entirely accidental. On display in the lower exhibition room are around 30 landscape paintings by Wolfgang Mattheuer from the years 1960 to 2000, in the upper photographs by the Canadian artist StanDouglas under the title "Potsdam Allotment Gardens". It's an attractive combination. It's not just "Eastern art" and "Western art" that meet here, but also two generations with Mattheuer (1927 - 2004) and Douglas, who was born in Vancouver in 1960, as well as panel painting and photography.

The crescent moons and enigmatic caps of light on the ridges of the ridges are great offerings to the imagination

Stan Douglas was in Berlin as a guest of the DAAD in the early 1990s. His Potsdam allotment series was created in 1994/95. Its basic idea is not to illustrate the term "niche society", which was sometimes overused in GDR society. There are hardly any people to be seen in his photographs, sometimes they show an abandoned plot, sometimes a rampant garden near the wall, ladders on trees, enclosed grounds being renovated. During his stay in Germany at the time, he recreated such an allotment conversion scenario in the Babelsberg film studio and shot the film "The Sandman" based on ETA Hoffmann in it. In the meantime, elements of the uncanny are mixed with their character as a document of contemporary history in his series. Quite a few of the places he photographed have disappeared.

New Museum in Potsdam: Wolfgang Mattheuer's picture "The neighbor wants to fly" also provides the title for the Mattheuer show in Minsk.

Wolfgang Mattheuer's picture "The neighbor who wants to fly" also provides the title for the Mattheuer show in Minsk.

(Photo: József Rosta/ Ludwig Museum - Museum of Contemporary Art © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022)

In the picture that gives the Mattheuer exhibition its title, "The neighbor who wants to fly", several allotment cottages can be seen. The man soaring into the sky above them, feathers outstretched, is related to the Icarus figures seen in other paintings. But Mattheuer's paintings never open up in their symbolic dimensions. Many of the pictures shown here come from his attention to the immediate area, his own garden in his birthplace Reichenbach im Vogtland.

Its landscapes are clearly lined with industry and are also shaped where they are not entirely at the service of opencast mining. They cross viaducts, they are captured from the driver's perspective, the moon appears in the rear-view mirror. But if the "Audio Stories" present the Mattheuer cosmos primarily as an early protest against the Anthropocene, they disambiguate the inextricable interpenetration of contemporary criticism and loyalty to the Romantic tradition in these paintings. The crescent moons and enigmatic caps of light on the ridges of the ridges are great offerings to the imagination. And if there is an aesthetic ally of the upsurges of Icarus in the Mattheuer cosmos, then it is the horizon that never abandons the memory of Caspar David Friedrich.

The Minsk. Kunsthaus in Potsdam. Wolfgang Mattheuer: "The neighbor wants to fly". Stan Douglas: "Potsdam Allotments". Until January 15, 2023. Catalog 38 euros.

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