Visit Mannheim's first museum, that opened in 1909 with a "master exhibition" featuring the most important French and German artists of the nineteenth century. The event took place in the art nouveau building, erected to celebrate 300 years of prosperity in the industrial city. The 31-year-old founding director won Mannheim's citizens over with a visionary concept. With the help of private donations, he created one of the world's first public collections of modern art. By February 1910, Wichert had succeeded in acquiring the monumental work the Execution of Emperor Maximilian by Edouard Manet and masterpieces by Monet, van Gogh, and Cézanne. Although decried in conservative circles, Kunsthalle Mannheim gained an international reputation when it came to modern art. In 1911, Wichert founded an independent association to establish the visual arts in Mannheim. Its motto was "art for all": a forward-looking pedagogical concept aimed primarily to serve members of the working class who were eager to educate themselves.
Wichert's movement in Mannheim saw success across Germany. It aimed to both reform the museum as an institution and to change society for the better following the maxim "filling cities and life with art." The following directors kept on Wichert's work in their own ways, leading to a varied collection of major modern artworks. The architecture, combining old and new Manheim's Kunsthalle complex elegantly combines Hermann Billings' art nouveau building, built in 1907, and the Hamburg firm gmp – von Gerkan, Marg and Partners' Hector Building, completed in 2017. As programmatic museum building concepts, the two architecture styles could not be more different: One is light-flooded, timeless, open, and urban, the other structurally expressive and imposing. On Skulpturenplatz, red Main sandstone glows when the sunlight hits its south-facing façade. On Friedrichsplatz, an intricate metal arch envelops seven exhibition spaces, grouped around a central, 22-meter-high atrium. Manheim's Kunsthalle can be seen as a treasure trove and a market square, all in one place. It's a city within a city, filled with art spanning two centuries and surprising digital innovations. The Kunsthalle is a fascinating meeting place for people of all generations and cultures, offering inspiring artworks and contemporary debates housed in a unique architectural ensemble – an unforgettable experience for all!
The collections, bold and modern
The Kunsthalle's own collection comprises around 1,500 works by artists including Paul Cézanne and Wassily Kandinsky, along with many Expressionism and New Objectivity artists. The long-awaited building extension attached to the old Jugendstil wing shows a major collection of works by Anselm Kiefer, 38 pieces on long-term loan from the businessman Hans Grothe. It gives the institution a vastly enhanced space for displaying its holdings. Don't miss out Manet's magnificent versions of the Assassination of the Emperor Maximilian, two Otto Dix masterpieces and one equally fantastic portrait by George Grosz.