Contemporary Art in Frankfurt

By Meredith Pollock, MA 2015-16

Two weeks ago the Museum Studies MA students took a field trip to Frankfurt, Germany. From Thursday morning to Saturday afternoon we saw five contemporary art museums and had a little time to explore the city. It was a busy 53 hours but it was a great experience to visit a new country together and learn more about contemporary art!


Frankfurt is located in south-central Germany and has a population of 717,000, making it the fifth-largest city in the country. It is part of the Frankfurt Rhine-Main metropolitan region, which has about 5.5 million inhabitants. Frankfurt is the largest financial center in continental Europe and is home to a number of international banks, as well as the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Frankfurt was heavily bombed during World War II and its historic Medieval city center was almost completely destroyed, but after the war Frankfurt flourished as a financial center. It also has an important presence in the contemporary art world and is home to a number of prominent museums, exhibition spaces, and art schools. During our time in Frankfurt we visited the Frankfurter Kunstverein, MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt 1 and 2, Portikus, and the Städel.


The Frankfurter Kunstverein

The Kunstverein was founded in 1829 with the mission of supporting the arts in Frankfurt. The museum does not have a permanent collection and only shows temporary exhibitions. It is directed by Franziska Nori, who was our professor for three weeks of our Art and Objects in Museums and in Context course. Dr. Nori lectured not only on her museum but on all the museums we visited, and it was fascinating to have someone so knowledgeable about contemporary art as our guide. The exhibitions we saw at the Kunstverein were Roots, which contained contemporary art from Indonesia, and Body-Me, which explored the body in the age of digital technology.




MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt 1

MMK 1 opened in 1991 and maintains a permanent collection alongside temporary exhibitions. The museum’s architecture is very unique as it is a triangular building on a triangular lot, and the museum is lovingly referred to as the “piece of cake.” Due to its plan, the spaces inside the building are all very different, and they house a wide variety of contemporary art. MMK 1 provided many opportunities to interact with the art, whether it was playing on a giant set of rings or dashing through swinging pendulums. The current temporary exhibition is the Fact of Matter by William Forsyth, a choreographer and dancer who is presenting a selection of his performative objects, video installations and interactive environments.




MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt 2

MMK 2 is an expansion of the MMK 1 collection and is curiously located in an office building in the heart of Frankfurt’s financial district. MMK 2 has a permanent collection as well as hosting temporary exhibitions, and often the two exhibits interact in the museum space. Currently MMK 2 is displaying the work of Kostas Murkudis, a well-known fashion designer. The exhibition explores the connection between art and fashion in a beautifully designed exhibition space that features innovative lighting and connections between the exhibition and the permanent collection.





Portikus was founded in 1987 and moved to its current building on a small island on the river Main in 2003. It is associated with the Städelschule Academy of Fine Arts and exhibits both established artists and newcomers. Portikus has no permanent collection and instead exhibits one temporary show at a time in the space, which consists of one room with beautiful views of the river and the skyline.





The Städel is the largest museum we visited and is one of the most important museums in Germany. It was founded in 1815 by Johann Friedrich Städel and is the country’s oldest museum foundation. The museum owns 2700 paintings with 600 on display, 100,000 drawings and prints, and 600 sculptures. Its collection ranges from the early 14th century to contemporary art of the 21st century and includes pieces by Albrecht Dürer, Sandro Botticelli, Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Vermeer, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Max Beckmann, Francis Bacon, and more. In 2012 the largest expansion in the museum’s history was completed, which added more than 30,000 square feet of contemporary art exhibition space beneath the Städel Garden.



After visiting Frankfurt we all had a better understanding of and appreciation for contemporary art. After living in Renaissance Florence it was a nice change of pace to experience a modern city like Frankfurt and a new kind of art!

Photos by Meredith Pollock

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