As the art hoards head north from Venice to Basel this week, the citizens of Kassel are enjoying one last moment of calm before the onslaught begins on their own city, with the opening of Documenta 12 this weekend.
Several readers have asked advice on what else there is to do in Kassel beyond Documenta, with the standard reply being, "Nothing," but I beg to differ. Kassel's museums offer a cabinet of curiosities well worth pursuing when you need a break from the newest and latest at Documenta. While The German Wallpaper Museum may not be to everyone's liking, the home of the Brothers Grimm is a short walk from main Documenta venues, offering a welcome respite. Across the street from the Grimms is the Neue Gallery, featuring perhaps Joseph Beuys best known work, The Pack, 1969 (above), as well as many landmark German paintings from the late 20th century.
Even closer to Documenta is the rather fabulous Museum of Natural History in the Ottoneum. You'll pass it daily walking from the Museum Fridericianum to L'Orangerie, but few of Document's 650,000 viewers will ever step into this marvelous little museum of wonders.
Also worth a diversion is Schloss Wilhelmshöhe on the edge of town, which houses the Old Masters Gallery. Choose a Wednesday or Sunday and you'll experience one of the great marvels of eighteenth century mechanical engineering, as you watch the Wasserspiel cascade down the mountain in it's half hour trek from the Herkules statue on the summit, finishing in a 52 meter jet of water in the gardens of the Schloss.
Unlike Venice and Basel, opening night in Kassel is a public event, with a grand party for the entire city kicking off Friday night.
Is modernity our antiquity? Finally, we'll learn the truth according to Roger & Ruth this weekend. See you there.