Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop

The Josef Albers Museum in Bottrop, Germany, was opened in 1983—George H. W. Bush, the Vice President of the United States of America at that time, and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr. Helmut Kohl, were present. Anni Albers was special guest of honour and together with Nicholas Fox Weber, the president of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, she took part in the official ceremony. In her words of greeting she stressed how grateful she was that Josef had been fortunate enough to have two homelands, one in Bottrop and one in America where he lived until his death; "He loved them both."

Albers's birthplace was, when he was born there in 1888, a small but fast-growing town with about 13,000 inhabitants. Both the town and the surrounding region were dominated by coalmining and rapid industrialisation. Peasant farming and coalmining had long functioned alongside one another, but gradually the extraction of coal came to dominate people's lives. The Josef Albers Museum, beautifully situated in Bottrop's municipal park, is one of the locality's outstanding features, and the name of Josef Albers enables Bottrop to shine far beyond the city boundary.

The Museum

The Quadrat Museum Centre embraces several complexes of buildings. Besides the Josef Albers Museum there are rooms for special exhibitions, as well as the Museum for the History of the City of Bottrop and the natural history collection with finds from the Ice Age in the region.

The Josef Albers Museum conserves some 100 paintings in addition to graphic works, studies on paper, glass pictures, and furniture, almost all of it donated by Anni Albers and the Josef Albers Foundation. It has in its collection the most comprehensive collection of works by Albers on display anywhere.

In its architectural shape the Albers Museum encapsulates the form of the square within a square, and is clearly related to Albers's famous picture series Homage to the Square. The clarity and simplicity of the building offer the visitor an opportunity for contemplation of the kind the pictures themselves require: the glass, steel and moving glass walls recall the innovations introduced by the architecture of the Bauhaus. The appreciation of craftsmanship and the integration of new materials and economic processes there also opened the way for Albers's creative work. The architecture is placed firmly in the service of art. It is convincing because its special proportions are right and because of its soft, even daylight. Large windows open up to the surrounding park. Everything invites contemplation.

The museum is showing early figurative works, works from the Bauhaus period, and also paintings which were inspired by numerous trips to the countries of Latin-America, pre-Columbian sculptures and naturally paintings from the Homage to the Square series. The viewer can examine color connections here and find the unity that can be derived from multiplicity.

The Context

Interaction of Color—the title of Albers's pioneering study of the power of color became the preface to a long-running series of exhibitions entitled Albers in Context. This series reveals the significance of Albers in relation to European and American art in the second half of the 20th century.

Since 2004 American artists like Agnes Martin, Sol Lewitt, Donald Judd, and Ad Reinhardt have been shown in conjunction with the work of Josef Albers, and Giorgio Morandi and Alexei Jawlenski have been shown as European classics for whom both working in series and the power of color were of central importance. The aesthetic and artistic connections here are manifold; they are to be found in the investigation of color or space, of the artistic concept or the spiritual content. This comparative juxtaposition demonstrates the timeless validity of Albers's message and impact.

The Sculpture Park

The picturesque setting of the house has made a further extension possible—gradually a sculpture park showing the work of contemporary abstract sculptors has grown up around the museum. In 1977 the first two large scale sculptures were erected: Ernst Herrmann's Gegeneinander verschobene Halbkugeln (Offset Contiguous Hemispheres) and Donald Judd's Bottrop Piece. Generous donations, purchases by the Museum, and loans have enabled the sculpture collection to grow continuously over many years, so that it now offers a selective survey of the work of concrete and constructivist artists.

The Sculpture Park and the Museum form a harmonious ensemble. The Museum is an airy building of steel and concrete whose individual spatial modules from the outside look simple and functional. The façade with its aluminum blinds is structured by tall glass windows. In this way not only can the works in the collections constantly be seen from outside, but from the interior, the building opens up on to the park and many of the sculptures are revealed to the viewer.