Art in public space
Hendrik Beikirch belongs to the top league of street artists today. As if carved in stone, this portrait on the facade in Schwetzingen has gradually revealed itself as that of a familiar local figure: an elderly asparagus farmer. The monumental face has been done realistically, with every crease and furrow rendered faithfully. Her highly expressive, inward-looking eyes act as a point of rest amid the facial landscape. The Kassel-born artist has captured a typical representative of Schwetzingen’s citizenry in all her unadorned splendour – proud, self-assured and full of charisma. Beikirch’s portrait is both idealised yet personal, thus giving it both a timeless dimension and symbolic strength. A maximum of verisimilitude has been combined with a grey-in-grey technique that gently abstracts the woman's features from reality. Beikirch succeeds here in bringing this Cinderella colour into the limelight, injecting life into its sober and unspectacular shades and giving it a fresh radiance.
With his ‘ground painting’ Trouble Makers, Mainz artist Jens Andres has blended humour and depth to amuse and bemuse the public. In each of the car parks on Neuer Messplatz, Zeyherstraße, and Friedrichstraße, he has marked two parking lots with a white coloured pictogram on a blue background. Done in the correct colours for road signs, they state that the parking spaces are reserved for UFOs. With his witty paintings, Jens Andres questions our habitual perceptions and the way we constantly obey other peoples' dos and dont's.
Without Asparagus Everything’s Bananas
To celebrate the anniversary “350 Years of Asparagus Growing in Schwetzingen”, Thomas Baumgärtel was commissioned to design the facade of a municipal building. With his mural “Without asparagus everything’s bananas!” he has put his artistic finger on the importance of Schwetzingen as an asparagus metropolis. Parts of the banana-yellow asparagus tip have been made up from any number of his signature spray bananas – a stylistic approach he terms “banana pointillism”. Baumgärtel’s mural intrinsically defines itself as a further development of his “fruit pictures”.
Spray Banana, 2008
The artist Thomas Baumgärtel, who entered the annals of twentieth century art as the‘ Banana Sprayer’, exhibited in 2008 in the palace orangery. As with countless other buildings home and abroad, he expressed his gratitude and appreciation by painting one of his famous spray bananas on the entrance to the orangery and on the outside of Palais Hirsch. They are part of a world-wide series of over 4,000 spray bananas on the facades of art locations.
Ancestors and Antecedents
Early in summer 2019, a brand new mural was painted on the facade of the gymnasium of a private secondary school. It was made by Mehrdad Zaeri and Christina Laube, who for several years have worked at home and abroad painting murals under the name “Duo Sourati”. The narrative, poetic vein typical of this author and book illustrator team can now be seen in the mural, which bears the title Ancestors and Antecedents. A girl is shown sending floral greetings to the souls of the past and the newly departed. The two artists have taken inspiration from the location, where past (the palace gardens opposite), present, and future (school) converge.
The oldest object in public view dates from 1496. This small religious shrine is what is called a “Marterl”, a stone cross in remembrance of a fatal incident that occurred on Mannheimer Straße: a man was killed by a horse and buried at the scene of the accident. Set in a flat tabernacle on top of a tall pillar and protected by a lattice is a bas-relief medallion of the Man of Sorrows, which exhorts us to pray to God. The cross was moved to its present location in 1959.
In 1970 Otto Mindhoff designed the War Memorial commemorating those who fell in the two World Wars. A monumental cross wrought in cast aluminium bears an imposing relief of Christ on the Cross. While untypical of such a monument, Mindhoff deliberately equated Christ’s martyrdom with the fate of the fallen soldiers: the figure of Christ is depicted in Mindhoff’s typical sculptural style. The head with the crown of thorns conveys the height of suffering – for both those who laid down their lives and for those whom they left behind .
Schwetzingen is part of a nationwide network of milestones that was initiated in the mid-1950s by Gerd Bucerius, the Federal Government Commissioner for Berlin. The milestones sport an outline drawing of the Berlin bear done by the sculptress Renée Sintenis. Marked beside it is the distance in kilometres to the former capital of Germany, which at that time was divided into three, and more particularly to Dönhoffplatz in Berlin, where a copy of the Prussian “Zero Milestone“ (1730) is located.
Armin Forbrig’s Wir91 relates directly to the political events of the year in which it was made. Forbrig wanted to “visualise the mounting problems of individual and social coalescence posed by the national unity of Germany.“ Using an unpolished marble block, the Chemnitz sculptor has created the illusion of a cube that has been cleaved in two, and then ineluctably bound together with hawsers to a purported unity. In retrospect, this prophetic vision of how a divided Germany might knit together has proved to be most realistic.
Facade of the Wildemann Car Park
Otto Mindhoff’s characteristic use of forms is brought to perfection in the facade of the Wildemannstraße car park. His monumental concrete relief covers almost the entire surface. A lengthier look shows that it consists of stylised depictions of cars and vehicles parts, reflecting the building’s function. Seen in this light, the striking flowing lines can be seen as conveying dynamism. The relief has been done in monochrome blue, the artist’s colour of choice.
Hebel’s tomb commemorates the sudden death of the Alemannic poet Johann Peter Hebel on 22 September 1826 in Schwetzingen during a visit to his friend Johann Michael Zeyer, the director of the grand ducal gardens. The solemn funeral already took place on the next day. Since 1854, a monument of yellow sandstone has marked Hebel’s final place of rest, made to the designs of chief building inspector Fischer from Karlsruhe. A medallion shows the departed poet in profile, crowned with laurels.
Johann Peter Hebel Mural
In 2001, the facade of the Johann-Peter-Hebel-Heim, not far from Hebel’s grave, was given a new look. Heinz Friedrich designed a mural which portrays the stately figure of the poet, pedagogue and prelate. His clothes and attributes point to his diverse talents, while the depicted buildings indicate the towns associated with Hebel’s life and mission: Basel, his place of birth, Hausen in Wiesental, where he grew up, Lörrach and Karlsruhe, where he established himself as a pedagogue and prelate, and Schwetzingen, where he was finally laid to rest.
With his sculpture Technoid, created in the mid-1980s, a central motif in Otto Mindhoff’s art production stepped into the third dimension. The monumental, highly stylised head had already emerged in various forms in his paintings and prints during the early 1960s. It exemplifies the encounter between humanity and technology, and their confrontation in everyday life. Rows of staggered heads are shown in machine-like constructions that convey the unavoidable helplessness that is felt in an increasingly technological world.
The internationally renowned opera director, stage designer and visual artist Achim Freyer created his object Love in 1991. Stylised mask-like faces form the beginning and the end of a gigantic spiral that conveys the total merging of self and other, buoyed by an intense feeling of fellowship. But at the same time it shows the impossibility of escape – as indicated by the demonic horns on one of the masks. The work in its entirety reveals the blessings and curses that are love.
This svelte young woman (commonly known as “Ursula”) was created in 1935 by Otto Schließler as a naiad, using the visual canon of National Socialism. It was part of a conceptual work for the Three Bridges in Schwetzingen’s Oststadt, which was created as an architectural proclamation of the “new era” and an arena for speeches and accolades. The nymph is holding above her head a dish from which a diaphanous curtain of water used to cascade as her “apparel”. Today the figure is located in the courtyard of the Town Hall.
A Huntsman from the Palatinate
The mural A Huntsman from the Palatinate has adorned this house on Gänsplatz since 1984. The dynamic composition shows a historical hunter who was in fact Count Palatine Johann Casimir (1543-1592). Footmen, bagged game, and a pack of boisterously jumping dogs round off this lively scene. The figures are all dressed in the fashion of the eighteenth century and thus present a general symbol of the princely hunt, which set out almost every day from the summer residence during Carl Theodor’s reign.
The Goose Well designed by Professor Martinsohn was erected in 1985 opposite the town hall. On it, a group of bronzes featuring a flute-playing gooseherd with a small gaggle of water-spurting geese watches over the basin of the fountain. The sculptor Fidelis Bentele from Oberstaufen in the Allgäu has made an expressive work: the self-contained group radiates an almost poetic peace. The young flautist is totally engrossed in his flute playing and shows that he was “born of a deep religious empathy on the part of the artist.”
For his composition The Claques, Guido Messer has mounted four identical male busts on graceful pedestals. But one figure stands out from this otherwise uniform group because it is has been coloured signal red. A case perhaps of marking the first among equals? The eyes of the clapping cheerleaders are closed, prompting the question: who or what is being applauded “unseen” by a collective mass? Here the artist presents a broad critique of authority, entitlement, and so-called democracy.
Memorial to the Victims of National Socialism
The Memorial to the Victims of National Socialism was inaugurated in 2013. Matthias Braun chose a figural design in order to stress that it was innocent individuals who were targetted, persecuted, deported, forced to emigrate, robbed of home and family, and ultimately murdered. The viewer’s reflection in the polished bodies emphasizes that both the persecuted and the culprits were people like “you and me.” Victims, perpetrators, accomplices and all the following generations enter an unshakable bond in the mirror of history.
Virgin Mary with Child
This sculpture bears a strong stylistic resemblance to the works that Peter Anton von Verschaffelt – court sculptor to Prince Elector Carl Theodor – created for the palace grounds from 1760 to 1769 using the classical antique canon. The twelve star crown, the sceptre and sickle moon of the Queen of Heaven, and above all the lance thrust of the Christ Child are typically found in representations of Mary Our Lady of Victory, and of the Virgin on the Crescent. A copy of this group – with attributes in reverse order – graces the church gable.
The light installation LOOK by the Mannheim artist Kurt Fleckenstein first comes to full effect at dusk, when the light from the LEDs makes the wall object glow a radiant blue. Thanks to a blinker unit in the tubes forming the two “Os”, the work gains a kinetic component that suggests that someone is cycling on a two wheel bike. It goes without saying that the object decorates the facade of the Museum of the Colour Blue.
Whether motorist, cyclist or pedestrian, anyone who goes from Schlossplatz in the direction of St Pancras’s Catholic Church will be bemused. At first sight a fast approaching “racing cyclist” seems to have steered his steely steed from the church forecourt in the forbidden direction of Schloßstraße. But the bemusement is quickly dispelled when the cyclist turns out to be a highly realistic wooden sculpture. The artist Peter Nettesheim loves to place his life-size figures in banal situations. He has staged his cyclist “deliberately as a traffic offender”.
In 2017, Schwetzingen celebrated Karl (Baron von) Drais’s maiden voyage on his velocipede, which took him on 12 June 1817 from Mannheim Palace in the direction of the summer residence in Schwetzingen. This event, together with the inventor and his world innovation, are remembered by the Drahtlinie (Wire Line) - Werner Bitzigeio’s art piece fashioned from stainless steel wire, which clearly cites Drais's running machine. The artist, who lives at Winterspelt in the Eifel, suggests here that this is a three-dimensional drawing done by the inventor with wire in space.
Circle of P. Egell: Saint John of Nepomuk
Until 1883, the sculpture of Saint John of Nepomuk stood on the Johannes Bridge on Oftersheimer Weg. Subsequently it was relocated to its present position, from 1968 in copy form, on the north-east corner of the palace area (the original is in the keeping of the museum). The saint is shown with his customary attributes and attire. The outstanding modelling, the inordinate love of detail, and the spiritual, calm and collective if not meditative approach to the figure allows the conclusion that a master craftsman produced it in the workshop run by court sculptor Paul Egell (from 1750).
Memorial to the Schwetzingen Torah
This stone commemorates the deportation of Baden Jews to Gurs in France on 22 October 1940. Its design and realisation were the outcome of an ecumenical youth project (2002-05) with the participation of 137 towns in Baden where deportation centres had been located. Copies of the 137 memorial stones have been erected on the grounds of the conference centre of the Evangelischer Jugend (Young Evangelists) in Neckarzimmern. The Torah roll relates to events in 1940 in Schwetzingen when Nazi henchmen forced their way into the congregation hall of the Jewish community, seized the Torah and set it alight.
Coats of Arms of Prince Elector Johann Wilhelm and Electress Anna de’ Medici
Two magnificent baroque coats of arms flank the wrought iron gates to the forecourt of Schwetzingen Palace. These magnificent reliefs were done in connection with the construction and extension of the palace into a baroque three-wing complex under Prince Elector Johann Wilhelm and his wife Anna de Medici. The coats of arms embrace both royal houses and testify to a highly harmonious bond of marriage which originally was sealed for state reasons. The arrival of Anna de’ Medici, the last of her line, brought sparkle and a love of music and painting to the Electoral Palatinate.
Peter Lenk’s sculptures distinguish themselves by their astuteness and sharp wit. Yet he put on kid gloves for this piece about Carl Theodor. The prince elector is depicted riding a pig high up on a columned pedestal, accompanied by a scantily clad rococo lady. The reference is to an anecdote in which Friedrich the Great called him “a lazy chap and lucky pig who has inherited more states than he ever has conquered”. The coquette serves as a symbol of the art-loving sovereign’s mistresses and muses.
The group of figures in the Asparagus Woman symbolises the leading topic in Schwetzingen, the almost 350 year-old tradition of asparagus cultivation. An asparagus woman is shown peddling her wares to a girl in a self-contained composition rounded off by her little dog Nico and other accessories. In this naturalistic rendering of the figures and implements, the Speyer sculptor Franz W. Müller-Steinfurth has followed the express wishes of the donor, honorary senator Herbert Prechtel. Prechtel wanted a work with a realistic, concrete narrative form that placed comprehension above everything else.
The Prince Elector’s Coat of Arms on Carl-Theodor-Straße / the Electoral Stables
Prince Elector Carl Theodor ruled over the Electoral Palatinate from 1742 to 1799. From the 1750s onward he spent six months of each year at his summer residence. Set resplendently above the archway of the stables is the stately coat of arms of the Electoral Palatinate. Between the two Wittelsbach lions, crowned with electoral hats and surrounded by military paraphernalia, are the blazons of the territories Palatinate, Bavaria, Jülich, Cleve, Berg, Mörs, Bergen op Zoom, Veldenz, Mark, and Ravensburg. The central electoral shield bears an arabesque, symbolising the electoral princes’ blood line.
Visitors to Schwetzingen, the town of culture, are greeted at the station by the trademark of the Potsdam-based sculptor Stefan Pietryga: a slender stylised tree extending upward from a pyramidal base of corroded steel, which awakens associations with an obelisk or totem pole. The artist’s choice of colour might point in this context to “Egyptian blue”, which is among the oldest artificial pigments that is made. Blue symbolises moreover the elements air and water, while the machine-made base represents the complementary elements earth and fire.
Grand Duke Friedrich I and his civic-minded and socially committed wife Luise von Baden were so loved in Schwetzingen that a fountain was donated to them on the occasion of their golden wedding. It was inaugurated on 9 September 1906, the ruler’s 80th birthday and exactly 100 years after the constitution of the state of Baden. The fountain, together with the portrait medallions of the grand ducal couple, is plain and simple. The spout in the form of a fish-head echoes that penchant at that time for Jugendstil.
The constructivist sculptor Horstmann-Czech from nearby Heidelberg created this aesthetic example of technical perfection in a cool yet alluring combination of materials: polished Carrara marble and burnished steel. Despite the harmonious appearance, this is a work full of contrasts. The role of the pointed steel cones remains unexplained: do they provide protection to the pillars of art that bend before them, or are they a threat? Colonna d´Arte prompts different readings and shows in principle the fragility of art through minimalist beauty.
The Magic of Colour
In the mural Magic of Colour, Heinz Friedrich enjoyed a rich opportunity to sing the praises of his chief artistic medium. Here the painter’s characteristic, elegantly supple, expressive forms and highly nuanced colours are given free rein. Parrots, peacocks, a dancer and a harlequin tumble and turn across the surface with great refinement and verve The creator of this world of colour appears in person, dressed as a conjurer on the left. And Friedrich even builds the lines of the facade quite effortlessly into his work.
The sculpture to the Three Kings high above in a building niche marks the entrance to Dreikönigstraße. Hans Volker Dursy has depicted the Wise Men from in front, very much in the here and now, and not as highly spiritual participants in a Christian portrayal. Indeed, the customary references to Christmas and the nativity are missing. With the “inverse” arrangement of the figures' by age, Dury presents a symbol of wisdom with the aged Balthazar representing the past, Melchior the present, and a young Caspar the future.
Hüseyin Altin has employed principles of constructive art for his sculpture Intra Muros. The focus of attention is on the homogeneous interplay between the materials – natural stone and cast stone – as well as between the geometric shapes of the square and the rectangle. A breach in the marble block grants a poetic view to the other side, while at the same time giving the sense of a flaw in its perfection. Rationality flows smoothly into the realms of emotion and shows all that may occur – to speak now with Horace and his Epistles – in the way of sins and transgressions under the veil of secrecy.
Facade Friedrichstraße 20
A particularly unusual facade can be seen at Friedrichstraße 20. The erstwhile owner, cabinet maker August Allert, created here a ”spectacular billboard” for “the performances he offered”. This richly adorned facade carved in wood is freely based on the Renaissance building Haus zum Ritter in Heidelberg. The figure of Bernhard II of Baden (1428/29-1458) crowns the facade, along with the motto “Ars Longa – vita brevis”. Another inscription commemorates Prince Elector Carl Theodor, who is shown as an imposing full length figure set in a semicircular niche.
With his Leap-frogger, Heinz Friedrich has created an assemblage of basic geometric forms – a sequence of angular shapes that adds up to produce a leap-frogger in the act of jumping over a stooped static figure. Not only does the work convey dynamism and stasis, it also captures the contrast between physical weight and the fragility of the individual shapes. The colour scheme of alternating white, grey and yellow in loosely defined stripes and surfaces gives this figural composition an expressionist look that produces a homogeneous overall effect.
Bernhard Apfel from Bad Tolz stands out as ever with his characteristic ingenuity, masterly dexterity, wicked humour, and balance act straddling “sacred contemplation and worldly desire.” His victor over evil rendered in expressionist style presents a potential symbol for us all. The conqueror’s striking features are echoed in the dragon’s blood-soaked severed head. With this doubling, the dragon becomes the hero's alter ego and ultimately acts as a trophy for his own successful inner struggle.
City Gate viz. “Gymnast”
With its natural elements and manually-shaped objects made of corroded steel, City Gate by Mannheim-based artist Kurt Fleckenstein has many of the typical features of his Land Art projects. By placing a graceful gymnast on the gate, it mutates into a monumental high bar. The gymnast is deliberately clumsy on his high bar so that – in keeping with Fleckenstein’s concept – he can “greet the visitors to the old town with a smile.” The work also acts as a support for so-called “shoefiti”, thus allowing the younger generation to add further aspects to the “gymnast”.
The sculptor Michael Lîngren, who lives in Neckargemünd and is known throughout the Rhine-Neckar region, is represented in Schwetzingen with this untitled figure of an angel set outside St Mary’ Catholic Church. The basic geometric forms of sphere and triangle have been joined together with curved lengths of sheet metal to produce a monumental stylised angel. This heavenly being, with its seemingly archaic and purist aura, exerts a powerful draw on the viewer that is deliberately intended to foster “emotional contemplation”.
Clock Tower Schwetzingen by Horst Hamann
In 2016, the exhibition Schwetzingen by Horst Hamann was mounted in the orangery at Schwetzingen Palace. The acclaimed photographer, who achieved world renown with his New York Verticals, shot a suite of photographs that capture the town, the palace, and the gardens. Part of it is on permanent show in the town hall. Four motifs, which characterise Hamann’s style, are on public display in a clock tower. This is situated on the perfectly straight baroque axis that joins Schwetzingen Palace with Königstuhl hill by Heidelberg.
The Kiel-based artist Björn Schülke has positioned his airborne object at the entrance to Schwetzingen: his “air-bike”, set high up on a graceful stainless steel pole. By adding elevators, wings with ailerons, and propellers, Schülke has turned this readymade into the semblance of a fully functional bike-based flying object. But he is pulling the viewers’ leg, because the wings are no more than a tracery of rods that let the air through. The bike is quite incapable of flying!