After a trip to the Cologne Philharmonic to hear Yefim Bronfman play (g) Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2, it was off to the Museum for East Asian Art, a favorite place for a calm, meditative morning after a night of drinking. The Museum sits right next to the Institute for Japanese Culture, both of them flat, quadrangular, mildly Brutalist/mies van der Rohian buildings whose spare lines and rectilinear spaces harmonize well with Japanese ideas of space. Even this hardcore anti-Brutalist finds them in Ordnung. The buildings are located next to Hiroshima and Nagasaki Park, created in 2004 at the initiative of peace groups.
The first floor of the Japanese Cultural Institute shows a fine photographic exhibition by Mitsumasa Fujitsuka on Japanese wooden buildings, including this shrine, erected in 719:
And then to the Museum for East Asian Art. It’s located in a one-floor building designed by Kunio Maekawa in 1977, blending contemporary rectilinear minimalism with traditional garden courtyards. The building exudes an elusive, unpretentious sense of calm and order which visitors find immediately attractive. The temporary exhibit space is lined with sisal carpet which absorbs noise and lighting is kept at a minimum to preserve silk scrolls. (This is why it’s the right place to wait out a hangover).
The collection has been pieced together from various donations, and is a bit idiosyncratic, but solid. The highlight is a set of perfectly-tuned Chinese bronze bells. A recording of them plays in the gallery, inspiring meditations on timeless themes. And then you see an 1847 Hokusai print of the heads of two executed criminals, which slingshots you right back into the snares of delusion. But then there’s a sublime painting of fog-enshrouded cliffs.
A few camera photos to give you a taste: