Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

What to do with an old tram shed in Berlin

The new academic year starts in a few days’ time. The time immediately before is conference season for us journeyman academics. I’ve been to two.

DSCF0775One way of judging (or being judged, if one is an organiser) is the mid-conference dinner. Last week, at a conference in London, this was held on a cruiser on the Thames. It cost extra. A nice spectacle, particularly those unfamiliar to London. A great opportunity for photographs (left), especially in balmy weather.

The food was a bit…

I’m now in Berlin, one of my favourite European cities. This is an academic corporate-sponsored conference. The venue forDSCF0788 the dinner was inspired. The entrance to the Classic Remise on Wiebestrasse in the North West of the city is modest. Once inside, it seems like a museum, but in actual fact it is one huge second-hand car sales showroom. Everything is for sale, at a price. The VW camper (right) is so valuable, that one has to request the price. It has been beautifully restored.

Clearly, these being vintage cars, supply is limited. But it does seem that, within reason, one could buy – and presumably sell – anything here. Tucked away on a platform, I saw a Ford Capri MkI. Naturally, there are many BMWs, Porsches and Mercedes of various vintages. But American cars also feature. There were three Ford Mustangs as well as a lumping 1930s Lincoln. Magnificent and obscene in equal measure. The resource that went into building it, to meet with GM’s ‘cars as disposable fashion accessories’ industrial design and business approach, must have been huge.

DSCF0792Now I am a white van man (there were a few vintage Citroen vans in various stages of refurbishment), hence prioritising an image of a VW camper over a Porsche. More interesting, however, was the building. I would not have guessed its origin without a trip to the toilet. And, there, on the wall, were some pictures of the very same building with trams peeking out like horses in a stable (left). When first built in 1901, it was Europe’s largest tram shed ‘Wiebehallen’. It is the work of the Berlin architect, Joseph Fischer Dick, who seemingly specialised in these structures. The current owners have been faithfulDSCF0785 to the building. Whilst the tracks are no longer there, the entrance arches are all numbered. The roof glass and steel frame remain. As do the authentic lights (albeit with modern bulbs).

The food was also good.

Rotterdam, museums

Rotterdam-20130815-00305Rotterdam, at first sight, seems not to have  any recognisable iconic buildings that so differentiate other European cities. However, Rotterdam makes up for this in museums and food. Spoilt for choice, just wandering around ensures that one encounters objects – cranes, boats, steam engines – from the maritime museum (left) with bi-lingual history plates.

The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is the City’s primary art gallery, home to an eclectic mix Rotterdam-20130815-00308of pictures, sculpture and furniture. Some of the pictures are very special. Paintings by René Magritte always seem like old friends, unless one has not met them before as in the case of La jeunesse illustree,1937 (right) with its path occupied by some familiar – and not so familiar – Magrittian objects against a blue sky and deep green grass. There are examples from a number of notable surrealists including Man Ray and Salvador Dali. Cubism in the guise of Picasso is also well represented.

Rotterdam-20130815-00311There is work by Van Gogh; for example, Cineraria’s from 1885. Still life is celebrated more widely, with Claude Monet’s Poppies in a Vase from 1883 (both left).

The curators of this museum have much humour integrated into the20130815_140453 plates. For example, Jan Adam Kruseman’s Damesportret from 1829 (pictured right) is, according to the curators, apparently a lesson in timelessness. The unnamed sitter is dressed in all her finery, which, at the time, may have been the height of fashion, but now looks a little overdone and reflects badly on the judgement of the painter rather than the sitter. Lovely smile, though.

Equally, the plate accompanying van Gogh’s Cineraria’s (above), informs us that this painting was supposed to be lighter  and more commercial to help sales. However, the plate concludes with the statement, “it is still not very colourful”. Contrasted with Monet, certainly.

There are also examples of the legitimisation of the flat landscape as a subject. Paul Gabriël’s 1898 work, Landschap bij Overschie (Polder with mills near Overschie) is a notable example (bottom left). Earlier one finds the more traditional approach to landscape painting such as Andreas Schelfhout’s Landschap met rechts een boerderij tussen hoge bomen (Landscape with farm between high trees) from 1817 (below right).



The museum also houses a collection of modern design artefacts. This collection is not really systematic nor specifically Dutch. There are collections of desk lamps, chairs, even door handles all tracing design innovations and materials. There are also plenty of metal and ceramic artefacts.