There he’s calmly sitting on his stony rock, resting his head in his right hand while he’s gazing at the ground. His thoughts are roaming far and wide: Since the opening of the Kunsthalle Bielefeld in 1968, August Rodin’s “Thinker” has been pondering outside of the museum’s main entrance at the south-western end of the old town. The statue points guests towards one of the most extraordinary art collections North Rhine-Westphalia has to offer, impressing rather by quality than quantity. The collection hosted in a cubist building with a façade of red sandstone, properly considered an architectural piece of art in its own right, is dominated by individual pieces rather than entire groups of works.
Any guests inspecting the postmodern-looking building by US star architect Philip Johnson more closely from the outside will immediately notice its massive upper part, resting fully closed on a smaller lower unit characterised by narrow projecting girder wall sections and wide window areas. Inside, amazement can be found right upon entering since the sophisticated room structure allows perfect access to the outstanding works of the late 19th and 20th centuries.
The Kunsthalle Bielefeld specialises entirely in modern and contemporary art, owning a collection of 500 paintings, 200 sculptures, and about 4,500 watercolours, drawings, and prints displayed in the permanent exhibition as well as in themed temporary ones. On exhibition space covering 1200 square metres, visitors can find works by Pablo Picasso, Max Beckmann, and Käthe Kollwitz, among other artists. These are part of the diverse overall ensemble defined primarily by striking individual works by a wide variety of artists.
A walk through the museum’s own sculpture park concludes the visit in a publicly accessible green space with an elegant water basin and looped paths that offers another 20 eye-catchers for closer inspection: Richard Serra’s “Axis” appears huge, heavy, and monumental here. The ten-metre-tall sculpture comprising three rust-red Corten steel panels is towering into the sky. Just a few steps on from it, Bettina Pousttchi’s “Viktoria” is referring to the back-and-forth interaction, the sharing of public space. She has arranged street bollards, usually standing individually, in an open area here. Their curved heads enclose each other in a work that brings up a few questions. Let us return to Rodin’s statue and the pause and reflection on the things just experienced that it inspires.