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The Weserburg Museum of Modern Art in Bremen

The Weserburg Museum of Modern Art in Bremen
© Jürgen Howaldt via Wikimedia Commons

Referring to itself as “the museum in the river,” the Weserburg is being unnecessarily and endearingly modest as well as delightfully symbolic.  This superb museum contains one of Germany’s—and the world’s—most significant assemblages of modern art and, as such, is certainly the jewel in the crown as far as the City of Bremen is concerned.  As for the symbolism, it’s true that the museum is smack dab in the center of the Weser River, like the prow of an indomitable ship, at the westernmost tip of a 6.5-kilometer spit of land (the Teerburg Peninsula) jutting westwards.

The History of the Weserburg

The Weserburg Museum of Modern Art is a natural extension of an idea that began almost three decades after World War II, when the building complex lay in ruins because of numerous air raids.  Following the war, the building complex was rebuilt and, in 1949, the Schilling Brothers, who had owned the building complex and had operated there as a coffee importer and roaster since 1923, opened again for business—a business which lasted until 1973, when the Schilling Brothers closed the business permanently and sold the building complex to the City of Bremen.

Over the next 18 years, numerous artistic studios of all sorts apportioned and used the building complex’s spaces for cultural, artistic, and social events.  In 1980, in response to many casual suggestions from various social, artistic, and cultural advocates, a semi-organized movement, anchored by the City of Bremen, to dedicate the building complex’s use to develop a so-called collector’s museum gained momentum.  The organization officially established the museum in November, 1988, and officially opened it less than three years later in September, 1991.  Go to this site for a superb history of the Weserburg Museum and the building complex.

The Concept of the Museum

In a nutshell, a collector’s museum displays works owned by collectors.  From that simple idea, the Weserburg has developed a reputation for assembling breathtakingly broad and thorough exhibits comprising works lent by collectors worldwide.  In a 2015 telephone interview with the New York Times journalist Scott Ruben, Marta Gnyp, a Berlin art advisor, said that “. . . public museums have financial restraints, . . . [b]ut they are still attractive to private collectors.  Public institutions give a quality stamp and visibility to collections.”

In other words, private collectors, for the most part, want the general public to be able to enjoy what they themselves enjoy, but the private collectors simply don’t have the facilities to permit the general public regular access to their collections.  Enter the notion of collector’s museums.  Private collectors lend works to collector’s museums so that the general public can enjoy the works and, in return for this public service, the collectors bask in the reflected glory of their possessions.

The museum’s web site is http://www.weserburg.de/index.php?id=78&L=1.  The museum is closed Mondays and open Tuesdays through Sundays from 1100-1800, except Thursdays until 2000.  The contact information is Teerhof 20; Bremen 28199; telefon 49–(0)421–59 83 9-0; and eMail is mail@weserburg.de.  Admission prices vary with age and group, but normally adults are €8, with special pricing for families, students & pupils, groups, classes, soldiers, the unemployed, the severely disabled, etc.

The Weserburg Museum of Modern Art in Bremen