Goethe. Transformation of the World

Johann Wolfgang Goethe is possibly the most famous German poet in the world. From 17 May to 15 September 2019, the first major Goethe exhibition in 25 years introduces visitors to Goethe’s works and life at the dawn of the modern era and the reception of his extraordinary literary achievements. The exhibition is a joint project by the Bundeskunsthalle and the Klassik Stiftung Weimar in cooperation with the Freies Deutsches Hochstift in Frankfurt a. M., the Goethe Museum in Düsseldorf and the Museum Casa di Goethe in Rome. The project is under the patronage of the German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Even during his lifetime, Goethe’s fame extended to every corner of Europe. His literary works have been translated into countless languages and characters like Werther and Faust have found their way into almost every artistic genre and medium of popular culture. Like no other German poet of his time, Goethe reflected on the changes taking place in the political, economic and cultural foundations of Europe around 1800. Not only was he a critical observer of the nascent modern era, but also an extremely versatile artist who continues to inspire writers, painters, sculptors, composers, photographers and film directors to this day.

In addition to painting, sculpture, graphic art and photography, the exhibition also focuses on works of theatre, film and music. The large-scale exhibition features some 250 loans from public and private collections around the world. With works by Caspar David Friedrich, Auguste Rodin, William Turner, Angelika Kauffmann, Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Barbara Klemm and Ólafur Elíasson, the spectrum spans almost three hundred years from the late 18th century to the present day. The historic reception of his works and person serve as an important starting point for examining Goethe’s contemporary relevance.

Goethe. Verwandlung der Welt – Behind the Art from Bundeskunsthalle on Vimeo.

The exhibition is divided into nine chapters highlighting Goethe’s life and works, as well as important historical periods during his life – from 1749, the year of his birth, to 1832, the year he died. The exhibition focuses on key milestones and events in his life, as well as some of his best-known works. At the same time, contemporary events play a central role. The large complex of ideas and the political, social and cultural upheavals not only provide historical background, but also shed light on the significant issues of the day with which Goethe was intensively occupied.

Goethe’s gardens installed on the roof of the Bundeskunsthalle reflect the poet’s lifelong interest in gardens, nature and botany. The roof garden is part of the large exhibition “Goethe. Transformation of the World”. The garden landscape was designed specifically for the venue in Bonn and unites the central motifs from the poet’s former gardens in Weimar – the garden Am Stern outside his famous Gartenhaus where he lived during his early years in Weimar, and the house garden at Frauenplan, his prestigious residence located in the centre of town.

When Goethe moved into his first home in Weimar not far from the Ilm River in the spring of 1776, he was taken with the expansive garden and immediately began redesigning it. Not only did he create a kitchen garden to supply his household with fruits and vegetables, but also a small English landscaped garden with winding paths and shady places where one could sit and relax. The garden also served as a place for botanical experiments, the results of which Goethe presented in his scientific treatises, e.g. his studies on metamorphosis and colour. After returning from Italy, Goethe moved into the more representative residence on Frauenplan, where he also spent much time tending to the garden in the courtyard. Like his garden in the Ilm Park, he also installed a kitchen garden and allocated a special section for botanical experiments. He also used the pavilion at the south end of the garden to store his geoscientific collection containing minerals, rocks and fossils from all around the world.

Like Goethe’s two gardens in Weimar, the garden at the Bundeskunsthalle incorporates aesthetic, scientific and economic aspects. Because the appearance of the rooftop garden will inevitably change during the course of the exhibition from May to September, we recommend visiting the garden again from time to time – either to take a pleasant walk or to relax, for aesthetic enjoyment or natural-scientific study.

Exhibition dates
Goethe. Transformation of the World
17 May to 15 September 2019

Goethe’s Gardens. Green Worlds on the Roof of the Bundeskunsthalle
Open till 15 September 2019

Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland
Friedrich-Ebert-Allee 4
52113 Bonn

Opening times
Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 am – 9 pm
Thursday to Sunday, 10 am – 7 pm
Public holidays, 10 am – 7 pm
Open at 9 am on Fridays for registered groups and school classes
Mondays, closed

Exhibition publication
Goethe. Transformation of the World
Published by the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland and the Klassik Stiftung Weimar
Authors: Johanna Adam, Sophie Borges, Christian Hecht, Nikolas Immer, Michael Jaeger, Jana Piper, Andrea Polaschegg, Christoph Schmälzle, Joachim Seng, Thorsten Valk, Christoph Wingertszahn
304 pp. bound, over 300 coloured illustrations, Prestel Verlag
Museum edition: 34 euros, bookstore edition: 45 euros

Projects of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar are funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Free State of Thuringia, represented by the State Chancellery of Thuringia, Department of Culture and the Arts.

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