Würzburg is known for great wine and great art. Located in Franconian wine country, this mid-size German city in northern Bavaria is home to one of the most comprehensive and intriguing collections of Concrete Art in the world, housed at the Museum Kulturspeicher.
Occupying a former granary along the Main River in the city’s old port, this stunning historical building was converted into a museum from 1996-2001 and retains its original stone facade, towering smokestacks, and portal windows among new modern elements and an abundance of glass. This one-of-a-kind museum houses two fantastic and absolutely different collections, our favorite being the “Peter C. Ruppert collection of Concrete Art in Europe after 1945,” one of Europe’s true hidden gems.
The Concrete Art Movement
Concrete Art is an abstractionist movement that focuses on non-figurative lines, colors, forms, and movement as a source of abstraction in themselves, often with a mathematical precision. The Concrete Art movement evolved in the 1930’s out of the De Stijl and Futurism art movements, and is closely associated with the Swiss painter Max Bill. Concrete Art emanates directly from the mind, with artists routinely showcasing a love of grids and geometric shapes, often using scientific concepts or mathematical formulae for inspiration. Concrete Art also encompasses elements of kinetics, frequently featuring artwork that moves or creates an illusion or suggestion of movement. These approaches are what distinguish Concrete Art fundamentally from Abstract Art, which often transforms a figure, still life, or landscape from nature into a system of color and form in which the original subject itself can still be recognized or sensed.
The painting should be constructed entirely from purely plastic elements, that is to say planes and colors. A pictorial element has no other significance than itself and consequently the painting possesses no other significance than itself. — from ‘The Basis of Concrete Art’ manifesto.
Concrete Art in Europe after 1945
The Museum Kulturspeicher showcases a colorful sampling of Concrete Art by artists from nearly every European country. There’s also a special emphasis on the British Concrete Art movement as well as concrete imagery in photography, two aspects of Concrete Art that have rarely been presented anywhere. With 6 rooms devoted to Concrete Art, each addressing a different historical theme, the collection is diverse and well worth a couple hours’ browse.
For a complete change of pace, there’s also the museum’s “Municipal Collection,” which features works from the 19th century through present, including figurative Romantic works, German Impressionism, and works by Franconian and Southern German artists, as well as special exhibitions.