Internationaler Kunstkritikerverband, Sektion der BRD

2012 Museum of the Year: Städel Frankfurt/Main

The Städel Museum in Frankfurt on Main is the Museum of the Year of 2012. Tending an almost 200-year legacy as the foundation of banker Johann Friedrich Städel, who died in 1816, and to this day sustained to a vital degree by civic commitment, the museum’s opening of the extension building is a striking affirmation of its place amongst the leading museums of Germany. The history of the construction of the extension, with its exhibition area of 3000 square metres, is memorable in its own right. No less than fifty per cent of the finances for this came from private donations, which, considering the total cost of thirty-four million euros, plus some eighteen million euros for the renovation of the architecture in which the permanent collection is housed, reflects not only the financial strength of patronage in Frankfurt, but also the feat attained by the Museum in stirring a willingness for support, and to focus it upon the tangible goal of a new building for the Museum.


With the underground extension under the gardens of the historical museum building, the integrity of this architectural monument has been successfully preserved at the same time as an outstanding solution found both architecturally and as regards the operation of the museum. Commissioning the Frankfurt-based architects’ office of Schneider + Schumacher, conspicuous  since their beginnings with innovative designs for exhibition buildings like the legendary, red Info-Box in Berlin, brought about a happy solution for the spatial needs of the Museum. The Städel’s vigorous expanding of its collections into contemporary art, which went hand in hand with the planning and realisation of the museum extension, thus avoided any displacement of the highly significant historical holdings. That two of the major Frankfurt-based banks have put large contingents from their corporate collections at the Museum’s disposal as permanent loans, underscores how integrated in its home city the institution of the Städel continues to be.


2012 also saw the Städel able to continue an ambitious exhibition programme of undiminished high calibre. One might recall the exhibitions on Claude Lorrain, the drawings of Raphael and Schwarze Romantik. Von Goya bis Max Ernst/Dark Romanticism From Goya to Max Ernst as fine examples. From Frankfurt and beyond, visitors rewarded these efforts with a new attendance record including just under half a million counted at the Städel alone. In this, the transfer effect of close organisational links with the Schirn Kunstalle and the Liebighaus as a sculpture museum is an increasingly tangible contributor, furthering reciprocal perception of what each of these wittingly complementary exhibition programmes have to offer. Together, the three establishments recorded visitor figures surpassing the one million mark for the first time.


For Max Hollein, the director of the three houses, 2012 was the confirmation of his reputation as an outstanding museum manager – and the year in which the anxiety of sceptics was dispelled that the organisation of the new extension and the acquisition of gifts and endowments could detract from the Museum’s core operation. On the contrary, the sense of new departures appears to be an inspiration for everyone in the team. A balance can be seen to be maintained between crowd-pulling exhibitions and those that inform about new insights in art-historical research – the more so thanks to an abundant programme of events that relate to the Collection and the exhibitions and which take advantage of all the means and media of museum education available today. The Städel is setting out into an assured future.


Berlin, 25.01.2013
Bernhard Schulz

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