Conquering The Wall. A Contemporary Look At Nazarene Frescoes


Arp Museum, Bahnhof Rolandseck (D), 2012

Marienkrönung, exhibition view, 2012

10m x 4.80m
acrylic and ink on wall

photo credit: Mike Vincenz


Conquering the wall. A contemporary look at Nazarene frescoes

On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Arp Museum and its new addition by Richard Meier, the exhibitions in 2012 will all have an architectural theme.

In addition, next year’s 21st “Kultursommer” festival in Rhineland-Palatine – whose motto is “Gott und die Welt” (God and the world) – is dealing with the complex issue of the different kinds of relationship between culture and religion.

There is more than enough reason to combine these two wonderful and exciting occasions in one exhibition that approaches both fields in a unique and surprising manner.

The exhibition “Conquering the wall. A contemporary look at Nazarene frescoes” has as its starting point twelve frescoes – the twelve apostles – by the painter Johann von Schraudolph (1808 -1879), a member of the Nazarene movement. In 1843 he was commissioned by Ludwig I. of Bavaria to paint the frescoes of Speyer Cathedral. In the course of restoration works in 1960 the frescoes were taken down and with the exception of two, the twelve apostles which used to be in the apse dome together with a Coronation of Mary never again went on public display.

We are therefore all the more proud to be able to exhibit the detached frescoes in Richard Meier’s new building at Rolandseck on the hills overlooking the Rhine. Here, they are exhibited in the immediate vicinity of the Church of St. Apollinaris in Remagen, which was also painted with Nazarene frescoes by the artists Ernst Deger, Karl Müller, Andreas Müller and Franz Ittenbach.

This Nazarene band connecting Neo-Gothic and postmodern architecture along the hills overlooking the Rhine finds its many-faceted continuation inside the museum. Twelve carefully selected contemporary artists (Sonja Alhäuser, Fides Becker, Ariane Epars, Martina Klein, Zilla Leutenegger, Christiane Löhr, Franziska Nast, Johanna Reich, Karin Sander, Hadassah Emmerich, Dorothee von Windheim, Heike Weber) develop their own positions relating to Schraudolph’s frescoes on site, thus creating a “network“ of diverse wall-mounted artworks.

Architecture – as the sine qua non of any fresco – plays a superior role. Other subjects that the exhibition touches upon include plant-like elements, colour, surface, ornamentation, figurativeness, vestments, religion and spirituality, as well as the direct, spontaneous and individual reaction of each artist to their historic counterpart.

Sensitive, yet confident approaches to artworks from a historically and religiously idealized world of the 19th century make the rapprochement and interaction of these different works from the point of view of the 21st century a tangibly and visibly exciting experience.

Here, for example, we have horse hair tracing the complex and intricate patterns of Christiane Löhr, millimetre by millimetre, like a plant spreading in the way of a drawing; a large-scale soap fresco by Sonja Alhäuser; an ornamental floor and wall work made of silicone by Heike Weber; a video work by Johanna Reich; pairs of eyes from different paintings transferred onto gauze by Dorothee von Windheim; a large-scale architectural painting by Fides Becker – all of these works in their material diversity lend a temporary new face to Richard Meier’s architecture and provide a new definition of the term “wall painting”.

—Jutta Mattern