CULTURE (2017 | Issue 3)

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German Art & Architecture

Art and Architecture in Germany

Art and architecture hold a mirror to what we were and what we are today. They depict our reality, both past and present, through imagination, giving us insights into our history, society and ourselves. What’s Up, Germany? throws light on the distinguished tradition of art and architecture in Germany.


Throughout history, German artistic output has played a crucial role in Western art. Internationally acclaimed German artists put Germany at the forefront of the art world. The list is long: the Renaissance painter Albrecht Dürer, the Romanticist Caspar Friedrich, the Neoexpressionist Georg Baselitz, the conceptualist Joseph Beuys, the surrealist Max Ernst—to name just a few! The Academy of Fine Arts, founded in 1662 in Nuremberg, is the oldest art college in Germany. Art classes still take place there even today!

After World War II, many West German artists began experimenting with Pop art, Abstract Expressionism and minimalism. Gerhard Richter, one of the most valuable living artists today, stands out for his paintings based on photographs. Contemporary artists like Thomas Schütte, Wolfgang Tillmans, Martin Kippenberger, Rosemarie Trockel, Andreas Gursky, Günther Uecker and Albert Oehlen have ensured an unprecedented interest in German art. At Sotheby’s contemporary art sale in 2016, works by German artists accounted for more than 43 per cent of total sales—nearly £21 million!

If you love modern art, don’t miss the art fairs held in Cologne, Frankfurt and Berlin. And, of course, there are plenty of museums and art galleries to sate your appetite for art. Germany has more museums and art galleries than any other country in the world. More people are said to visit museums than football stadiums! In addition, there’s documenta, the world’s largest contemporary art exhibition. Held in Kassel every five years, it lasts for 100 days! If you still haven’t had your fill, you can hop onto shuttle buses late into the night and experience the Long Night of Museums, which is held in large German cities every year.


Like its art, Germany’s architectural heritage evokes great praise and has immense cultural and historical value. Germany is home to 42 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, from cathedrals to castles, stately houses to public buildings. What makes its architecture so special is the sheer diversity. Some of the finest buildings made in Carolingian, Romanesque, Gothic, Classical, Baroque, Rococo and Renaissance styles can be found in Germany. The Brandenburg Gate, Aachen Cathedral, Zwinger Palace, Würzburg Residence, Sanssouci Palace, Margravial Opera House, Trier’s Roman monuments and the old town of Regensburg come to mind.

Contemporary German architecture, with its functional design, owes a lot to the Bauhaus school that originated in Germany in 1919. Actually, modern world architecture owes a great deal to the Bauhaus. The distinctive characteristic of modern-day buildings in Germany is the absence of ornamentation. Form follows function.

 Bauhaus- Art, Architecture, Graphic and Interior design

Founded by Walter Gropius, Bauhaus was the most influential modernist art school. It was operational from 1919–1933 and was located in Weimar, and later in Dessau and for a short while in Berlin. Though it didn’t have an architecture department initially, Gropius regarded architecture as the “ultimate goal of all artistic activity”. The school was founded with the idea of creating a Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) in which all arts, including architecture, would be brought together. Even though it was shut down within 14 years, Bauhaus continues to have a worldwide influence on art, architecture, graphic and interior design. One could say it is one of the most important exports of German culture. In 2019, the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus will be celebrated in Germany. Bauhaus sure does deserve a big bow!

Top 10 trends in young German

  • 1. Tattoos
  • 2. Slam poetry
  • 3. Vegetarianism/veganism
  • 4. Longboarding
  • 5. Open-air cinemas
  • 6. Festivals
  • 7. Dressing normcore
  • 8. Craft beer
  • 9. Food truck events
  • 10. Gap years