Twenty tips in the Ruhr area. In 2010 the Ruhrgebiet was Cultural Capital of Europe. The city of Bochum was the location for festival and theater, Dortmund was creative city, Duisburg harbour was ‘Kulturhafen’, Essen was artsy and Oberhausen a popular spectacle.
Düsseldorf – Medienhafen / Rheintürm ***
As the most versatile city in the area Düsseldorf is a great home base. The city itself has a number of musea but it’s also a good place for shopping. The Medienhafen south of the Rhine boulevard is a modern park and nightlife area with bars and restaurants at the foot of the 360 rotating Rheintürm restaurant looking down on the plowing cargo ships in the winding rhine.
Düsseldorf – KNW ****
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen is an institute with exhibitions in multiple locations. In main location K20 **** it has an impressive collection of 19th century paintings on the top floor and lots of space for contemporary art exhibitions.
Right across the street the smaller but architecturally more interesting Kunsthalle *** is the second KNW location with space for temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.
The most beautiful KNW location is the K21 Ständehaus *****. The former Provincial Diet of the Prussian province of the Rhineland was opened in 2002 after it was crowned with a glass and steel domed roof and expanded with three floors of exhibition area in part of the former piazza. Right now it’s the stage for Tomas Saraceno’s wonderful installation In Orbit.
The Schmelahaus ** nearby K20 and Kunsthalle designed by architect Aldo van Eijk is also part of the KNW.
Duisburg – Küppersmühle ****
Duisburg – Landschaftspark ***
Duisburg – Tiger and Turtle, Magic Mountain *****
Mönchengladbach – Museum Abteiberg ***
This surprisingly spacious museum in Mönchengladbach is found in a beautiful building in the tiny town of Mönchengladbach. It has a wonderful collection of modern art objects and lots of space for changing exhibitions. Bad weather prevented us from taking a look in the museums sculpture gardens.
Oberhausen – Gasometer ****
Oberhausen – Slinky Bridge **
Oberhausen – Zauberlehrling ****
Essen – Museum Folkwang ****
Essen – Ruhrmuseum ****
The Ruhr area’s historic museum focuses on 20th century industry. It’s located in the main buildings of the former coal mine which has been impressively redesigned by Rem Koolhaas. A must see for visitors of the Zeche Zollverein terrain.
Essen – Red Dot Designmuseum ***
Essen – Zeche Zollverein ****
The grounds of the former coal mine is not only home to the Ruhrmuseum and the Red Dot Designmuseum but in the northwestern parts at the former Kokerei Mischanlage there’s a restaurant and more exhibition space. Until 6 october it houses the especially wonderful installation Silence, Exile, Deceit ***** by Douglas Gordon. The rest of the terrain with more of the former industry’s now rusty installations is also very much worth a visit. Also make sure to check out Ilya Kabakov‘s Palace of Projects.
Witten – Zeche Nachtigall *
Bochum – Westpark **
The area surrounding the Jahrhunderthalle is wonderfully redesigned by landscape architects Danielzik & Leuchter. The park features several extraordinary cycling bridges, theater locations and a cafe and is one of the more cultivated renditions of former industry parks in the area.
Bochum – Jahrhunderthalle ***
Unna – Lichtkunstzentrum *****
The ‘first international light museum’ leaves no stone unturned when it comes to attesting to its importance in the international world of light art. The fact that it only offers guided tours in which it’s not allowed to take photos of the works on display is nothing short of a public relations disaster. The cellars of the former brewery contain several very impressive installations which make the detour to the insignificant town of Unna very much worth your while. Without a gallery to prove my point you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Dortmund – Dortmunder U **
Next to the quite unique Dortmund Unique Hotel, in a former brewery building, is the Dortmunder U. The building has an impressive new interior, videowalls around the top of the tower and a rather clumsy panoramaroof with views on much of the Ruhr area. The top two floors are occupied by Museum Ostwall. Not a video art museum, like we expected, but a rather stiff collection of modern art. No photos please.
Dinslaken – Emschermundung ***
Right at the end of the Emscherkunst route at the Emscher lade, in the vicinity of another powerplant, Reiner Maria Matysik placed his installation Fluss wird Wolke. A hundred meters further up the Emscher you’ll find Hans op de Beeck’s The Settlement. At the Emscherkunst info center Ai Weiwei has pitched his camp, like he’s done along the entire Emscherkunst route, as free sleeping accomodation for pedestrians of cyclists following the route.
Hattingen – Henrichshütte ****
The former blast furnaces terrain in Hattingen has been made accessible to the public. Not only the factory hall that has been turned into exhibition space, but almost all of the buildings and technical installations on the premises are open. Including the blast furnace towers themselves. Most of the modern installations were sold after the factory was closed, but the older parts were tagged ‘Nicht für China’ and have thus been saved for the public. Quite a treat for people who like to stroll through industrial landscapes.
And that’s not all. There’s more to see in the Ruhrtriënnale and the Emscherkünst Route. But this is the list of all locations we’ve set eyes on, accompanied by our own valuation. Keep an eye on the programmes of the locations mentioned. Sadly Ryoji Ikeda’s brilliant ‘Test Pattern’ is no longer to be seen in Duisburg’s Landschaftspark, but Douglas Gordon in Zeche Zollverein and Tomas Saraceno in K21 are still there. Don’t miss them!
If you have any more tips please let me know in the comment section. The Ruhr area is very accessible from Holland but also from other parts of Europe, ideal for a weekend trip!