3,900 Pages of Paul Klee’s Personal Notebooks Are Now Online

“These works are considered so important for understanding modern art that they are compared to the importance that Leonardo’s A Treatise on Painting had for Renaissance,”

Paul Klee was born on December 18, 1879, in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, into a family of musicians. His childhood love of music was always to remain profoundly important in his life and work. From 1898 to 1901 Klee studied in Munich, first with Heinrich Knirr, then at the Kunstakademie under Franz von Stuck. Upon completing his schooling, he traveled to Italy. It was the first in a series of trips abroad that nourished his visual sensibilities. He settled in Bern in 1902. A series of his satirical etchings was exhibited at the Munich Secession in 1906. That same year Klee married Lily Stumpf, a pianist, and moved to Munich. There he gained exposure to Modern art. Klee’s work was shown at the Kunstmuseum Bern in 1910 and at Moderne Galerie, Munich, in 1911.

Klee met Alexej Jawlensky, Vasily Kandinsky, August Macke, Franz Marc, and other avant-garde figures in 1911; he participated in important shows of advanced art, including the second Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) exhibition at Galerie Hans Goltz, Munich, in 1912, and the Erste deutsche Herbstsalon at the Der Sturm Gallery, Berlin, in 1913. In 1912 he visited Paris for the second time, where he saw the work of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, and met Robert Delaunay. Klee helped found the Neue Münchner Secession in 1914. Color became central to his art only after a revelatory trip to Tunisia in 1914.

In 1919, Klee applied for a teaching post at the Academy of Art in Stuttgart. This attempt failed but he had a major success in securing a three-year contract (with a minimum annual income) with dealer Hans Goltz, whose influential gallery gave Klee major exposure, and some commercial success. A retrospective of over 300 works in 1920 was also notable.

In his mature carreer Klee taught at the Bauhaus from January 1921 to April 1931. He was a „Form“ master in the bookbinding, stained glass, and mural painting workshops and was provided with two studios.[44] In 1922, Kandinsky joined the staff and resumed his friendship with Klee. Later that year the first Bauhaus exhibition and festival was held, for which Klee created several of the advertising materials. Klee welcomed that there were many conflicting theories and opinions within the Bauhaus: „I also approve of these forces competing one with the other if the result is achievement.“

Click here for 3,900 Pages of Paul Klee’s Personal Notebooks Are Now Online, Presenting His Bauhaus Teachings (1921-1931) for free!

The Man Who Fell to Earth

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Of all of David Bowie’s trippy musical sojourns throughout the years, his German version of the song Heroes still stands out. Maybe the sadness and resignation of bits like the famous signature refrain – “We could be heroes, just for one day” – simply works better in German, the rougher cadences capturing the song’s grittiness and melancholy better than the softer syllables of the original English. Or maybe the German version just feels right, for the obvious reason that the song’s protagonists seem to find themselves floundering in a divided Berlin in the middle of the Cold War.

I really don’t know. I also didn’t know Bowie had cancer (did you?), which is why the news of his passing yesterday came out of absolutely nowhere.

Even though he had released a new album on his birthday just a few days ago, Bowie had pretty much faded from my radar over the past few years. But in my head he remained the way he had always been: an ever-present fixture – someone who’d surely always be around when we needed him, as immovable, as indestructible, as music itself. So now it’s surreal that he’s gone.

The German Foreign Office sent out a Tweet in English yesterday: “Goodbye, David Bowie. You are now among Heroes. Thank you for helping to bring down the wall.”

Bowie did indeed have a thing for Germany. He lived in Berlin during the wild 1970s, bunking with Iggy Pop and pedaling his bike regularly around Schöneberg and Kreuzberg. He recorded Low and Heroes there. Maybe that’s why Heroes, the song, works so well in German. The title is, after all, a nod to Kraftwerk’s spin-off band, Neu!, and clearly the swirling angst of a still divided German capital had settled firmly into Bowie’s psyche and songs.

When Bowie preened and posed through his now legendary set at The Concert for Berlin near the Reichstag later in 1987, thousands of Germans trapped behind the wall in the East crowded in close to hear Ziggy Stardust croon from the other side, the free and hopeful and magical side just a few scant meters beyond the concertina wire. And, as the story goes, some wept, and Bowie wept, and a kind of electrical charge zapped through East Berlin, jolting a demoralized people clamoring in unison for real heroes.

Not to force the metaphor too much, but David Bowie helped bring down a few walls – some musical, some cultural; and yeah, also, quite possibly, one a massive eyesore of Soviet masonry that had once sliced Germany’s capital in two.

Goodbye, David Bowie. And yes, vielen Dank.

 

Der Wert des Scheiterns

Wir, Sabine und Saskia, sind Mutter und Tochter. Manchmal schreiben wir gern zusammen und ergründen die einfachen (und wichtigen) Fragen des Lebens. Zwei Generationen, ein Thema.

Die Tochter. Dieses Video kann man sich kaum anschauen, ohne sich zu verlieben. Es handelt sich um die Abschlussrede der Harvard-Universität 2008, gehalten von J.K. Rowling, Autorin der Harry Potter Bücher. Was für eine starke, kluge, wortgewaltige, charmante Frau!

Diese Rede schickte mir vor sechs Jahren anlässlich unseres Diploms ein Freund von mir per Email. Seitdem höre ich sie regelmäßig bestimmt zweimal im Jahr, und bin jedesmal wieder verzaubert.

Die Rede hat zwei Teile – beide fantastisch, beide hochaktuell – heute spreche ich über den ersten: „the benefits of failure“ – der Wert des Scheiterns. Jeder junge Mensch sollte diese Rede hören. Wäre ich Lehrerin, würde ich sie ins Curriculum aufnehmen.

Hier ein Auszug, frei übersetzt (jedem, der Englisch versteht empfehle ich das unübertreffliche Original, s.o.)

“Ich habe nur sieben Jahre nach meinem Abschluss, an jedem normalen Maßstab gemessen, auf gigantische Weise versagt. Eine sehr kurze Ehe ist gescheitert, ich war arbeitslos, musste alleine für ein Kind sorgen und ich war so arm, wie es im modernen Großbritannien möglich ist, ohne obdachlos zu sein. Die Befürchtungen, die meine Eltern meinetwegen hatten und die ich auch selbst hatte, waren wahr geworden – ich war in jeder Hinsicht die größte Versagerin, die ich kannte.

Ich werde hier aber nicht stehen und Ihnen erzählen, dass das Versagen Spaß macht. Dieser Abschnitt meines Lebens war düster. Ich hatte keine Ahnung, wie weit sich der Tunnel hinziehen würde, und für eine lange Zeit war jedes Licht am Ende  mehr eine Hoffnung als die Wirklichkeit.

Warum spreche ich also über die Vorteile des Versagens? Ganz einfach deshalb, weil Versagen bedeutet, dass man sich von allem Unwichtigem löst. Ich machte mir nicht mehr vor, jemand anderes zu sein, als ich war, und ich begann, meine ganze Energie in die einzige Arbeit zu stecken, die mir wirklich wichtig war. Wenn ich irgendwo anders Erfolg gehabt hätte, dann hätte ich vielleicht niemals die Entschlusskraft gefunden, in dem einen Gebiet erfolgreich zu sein, wo ich meiner Meinung nach wirklich hingehörte. Ich war frei, denn ich meine größte Angst war Wirklichkeit geworden, und ich war immernoch am Leben, hatte immernoch eine Tochter, die ich über alles liebte, und ich hatte eine Schreibmaschine und eine große Idee. Und so wurde der Tiefpunkt zu dem festen Grund, auf dem ich mein Leben wieder aufgebaut habe.

Sie werden vielleicht niemals so sehr versagen wie ich, aber bis zu einem gewissen Grad ist es unvermeidlich. Ein Leben, in dem man niemals versagt, ist unmöglich. Außer man lebt so vorsichtig, dass man auf das Leben gleich hätte verzichten können – und in diesem Fall hat man ohnehin versagt.”

Erstmal sacken lassen. (Über den zweiten ebenso hochaktuellen, Teil „the importance of imagination“ – die Wichtigkeit der Vorstellungskraft, sprechen wir vielleicht ein andermal…)

Die Mutter. Warum sollte nur jeder junge Mensch diese Rede hören? Scheitern ist ein Thema, das sich durchs ganze Leben zieht. Was ist Scheitern? Versagen. An seinen Zielen vorbeischrammen, und zwar total. Mit dem, was man wollte, in einer Sackgasse enden. Erwartungen enttäuschen, fremde wie eigene. Man schämt sich, nicht mehr so toll dazustehen, wie man sich gern sehen würde. Man schämt sich, dass andere einen sehen und denken könnten: du Wurm. Es gibt so viele, die aus dieser Angst heraus an falschen Jobs oder unglücklichen Beziehungen festhalten. Man könnte denken, sie seien gescheitert, wenn sie sagen, dass sie so nicht mehr leben wollen oder dass sie sich geirrt haben oder dass dies der falsche Weg war. Außerdem können sie ja nicht wissen, ob ein anderer Weg/Job/Beziehung nicht auch im Unglück endet – auch da lauert die Angst vorm Scheitern. Wenn man ganz dicht mit der Lupe dort heran geht, sieht man, dass es die Angst ist, aus allem herauszufallen,  was einen hält; dieses Stück Sicherheit, das man selbst im unglücklichen Leben verspüren kann, das hätte man dann nicht mehr. Wir denken, wir fallen ins Nichts, wenn wir scheitern.

Das Wunderbare an Rowlings Rede ist, dass sie in dieses Nichts hineinleuchtet und beschreibt, was sie damals darin  fand: nicht nichts, sondern sich selbst. Den unverstellten Blick darauf, wer sie war, was sie konnte, was sie hatte. Da war ein Boden, auf dem sie anfangen konnte. Diese Rede sollte jeder lesen, der davon träumt, neue Wege zu beschreiten und Angst davor hat, sich in Ungewisse zu wagen. Viele, die sich in ihrem Job, ihrer Beziehung, ihrem alltäglichen Leben gefangen fühlen, könnten Mut daraus schöpfen, ihr Leben zu verändern. Jeder Burnoutkandidat sollte sie lesen. So gesehen ist diese Rede hochaktuell.

Come dine with me

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Last Saturday, I had guests for dinner. It is something that happens every now and then at my blue table. Young people in their twenties usually from different backgrounds, often different nationalities gather around that table, the first one my mother owned  when she herself was in her twenties. I put on that Spotify playlist, light the brass candle holders and uncork the red wine. That’s what I always do and that is what I did last Saturday as well. Actually, it was like any Saturday dinner with guests. Just that those guests did not come from Sweden or Spain or the South of Germany. They came from Syria and they did not come voluntarily.

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Last year, Ebba Åkerman, a Swedish language teacher for immigrants, came up with the brilliant idea of the “Invitationsdepartmentet”, a Ministry of Dinner Invitations. She realized that refugees and immigrants are “let into the country but not into the society”. That’s why she started matching natives and immigrants who met for dinner together.

In Hamburg, we also have hundreds of refugees. They live in container camps with other refugees and contact with Germans is scarce or lacking. For the Germans, the refugee question is mostly a political topic that is discussed in media, it’s numbers, not people. In short: Hamburg, like probably any German city, is a perfect starting point for a German Ministry of Invitations.

Through friends I contacted Tina, an inspiring young woman who hangs out with the refugees and helps them with trips to the authorities. I asked her if she thought it would be a good idea and if the refugees would be up for a dinner with us. They were.

Last Saturday, I had guests for dinner. Young people in their twenties, from different backgrounds, different nationalities: two German girls, Sarah and Tina, and two Syrian guys. A PR professional, an engineer, an English graduate, an economist. We talked about Hamburg, about studying, about food, about parties, about what our parents do. We told each other of our childhood homes. We could have been a group of exchange students. When you sit down for a casual dinner, there is little difference between these guests, refugees, and other international friends if you don’t choose to focus on it.

 

Survey of the Space – Jörg Plickat’s Recent Sculptures

von 26. Februar 2015 0 No tags Permalink 3

The Drostei Foundation has opened the most comprehensive solo exhibition in Germany to showcase and honour Jörg Plickat’s work on the occation of the artist’s 60th birthday. Born in 1954 in Hamburg, Jörg Plickat is one of Germany’s most prominent sculptors of his generation.
Acting like an architect, Jörg Plickat plays with geometric shapes, adds cubes or remove them again. Experimenting and swirling the geometric forms on the head, around its own axis, he is changing the perspectives. Monumental beams made of steel are turned, curved or bent. Granite cubes are moved into each other, in process of construction and reduction.

Main subject in Plickat’s work is to challenge the position of the figure in space. The intention to deal with volume, space and balance runs like a thread through his sculptural work but also at his nude drawings of the early years. The title of the exhibition „The Survey of the Space. Sculptures and Drawings“ aspects these motifs, presenting a fascinating selection of previously unreleased artworks, sculptural works in stone, bronze and steel, diagrams and drawings from different periods of Plickat’s thirty-year career.
Jörg Plickat is living in Bredenbek in Germany, but working and exhibiting worldwide. In 2011 he was selected to teach as guest professor first at the prestigious Chinese Academy of Art and Design of the Tsinghua University Beijing and than several times at the China National Academy of Arts in Hangzhou, and in 2014 he tought at Spain’s eldest and top-grade university, the Universidad Conplutense de Madrid, UCM.

The Drostei Foundation organized Plickats’s retrospective solo show completing this unique exhibition in Germany with a documentary section, showcasing architectural landscape models and photographs on Alu-Dibond. One of the highlights of the show are the day and night site installations of the large outdoor sculptures “Dialogue” and “Divided World” at Drostei entrance terrace and Park. Plickat’s sculptures are so big and heavy that they always require logistical precision. Therefore special traffic road permits were needed to get them to the Drostei Foundation in Pinneberg.
Anyway and anywhere, Plickat’s site specific outdoor sculptures raise the question about recent global changes in social and economic constellations. How are people living together? How do they communicate? Caused by economic and political globalization, transformations of architectual public spaces without identity are booming up. Faceless and surreal districts. Even if they are real, they were perceived as unreal. Plickat’s monumental works in public space however, whether in Pinneberg, Beijing or New Orleans, challenge the space in an ambivalent, visionary way. This German artist is a cross between an architect, poet, philantropist, provocateur and visionairy.

The architecture of the exhibition space in Pinneberg, the historical Rococo building of Drostei Foundation, features the characteristic Baroque elements, dynamism, strong curves and general complexity, which allows to create corridors with different, always unexpected perspectives to point out the sculptural proportions, to move the viewer through them and through the space surrounding them.

Inside this fluidity of design and proportion a sense of emotion is coming up, when the viewer perceives the genesis of the artist’s sculptural forms, from the relative simplicity of a geometrical form to the complexity of circles or multi level geometrical constructions. No doubt, this show is creating an unforgetable feeling of space in motion, when the entire room becomes part of the sculptural field. No coffee, but survey of space to take-away.

EXHIBITION

The Survey of the Space. Sculptures and Drawings. Jörg Plickat’s 60th Birthday Solo Exhibition. February 8 – March 29, 2015

LOCATION

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Drostei Foundation -Dingstätte 23, 25421 Pinneberg, Germany, Phone + 49. (0)4101.210 30, Email: info@drostei.de
OPENING HOURS: Wednesday to Sunday, 10 AM – 5 PM
CATALOGUE: Drostei Foundation launches a fully illustrated catalogue that will accompany the Jörg Plickat exhibition.

CONTACT ARTIST: Jörg Plickat

CONTACT DROSTEI: Artistic Director Stefanie Fricke

CONTACT AUTHOR Dr. Barbara Aust-Wegemund Art Historian, Curator www.arthistoryconsulting.de

Photo: Hayo Heye Jörg Plickat, Sculpture „Divided World“ in front of Drostei Foundation

War and Peace

Wladimir Klitschko raises the Ukrainian flag in Hamburg

Wladimir Klitschko’s brisk dismantling of Kubrat Pulev at Hamburg’s 02 World arena Saturday night was like a rerun we had seen many times before. Pulev pawed, ducked, and plodded for a handful of clumsy rounds as he tried to dodge Klitschko’s onslaught, but the previously undefeated Bulgarian finally crumbled under a stealthy left cruise missile in the fifth, ending up twisted and glassy-eyed on the canvas while many in attendance pelted him with whistles and jeers.

Every fan of heavyweight boxing knew the routine – and all of them know that Wladimir Klitschko truly is a force. The Ukrainian pugilist has more belts than Karl Lagerfeld, and only the great Joe Louis now has more heavyweight title bouts to his credit.

But the drama Saturday transcended the relatively small confines of boxing. In his post-fight interview mid-ring, Klitschko first warmly thanked his fans in Hamburg – his adopted home of nearly two decades – before solemnly addressing the large Ukrainian contingent watching. He began, in German, by dedicating the fight to the people of Ukraine, noting what a difficult time it was for the country. But he finished the soliloquy (which had the unnerving ring of a eulogy) in his native Ukrainian – to the cheers of many on hand, and despite the admonition from his interviewer to keep his comments in ratings-friendly German. It was clear that Klitschko had fought for more than just a few division belts.

By boxing standards the post-fight scene wasn’t that weird. In fact, Klitschko’s behavior was understandable and even expected. For a brief moment Saturday night Ukrainians were on top and in control. But standing there in the safety of Hamburg after his performance, the great Klitschko clearly knew that while one battle had been won, tougher ones outside the ring awaited.

Another Brick in the Wall?

The Wall, West Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, 1972. Photo: © picture-alliance/dpa

If the West were to put it to a vote today, Vladimir Putin would rank high on a list of world leaders we love to hate. Russia’s oily neo-tsar seems bent on being deceitful and a bully as a matter of course now, and he still does his stomping and preening unchecked and with impunity. But we could lodge the same complaints against half the world’s leaders. What makes Putin special is the muscle at his command – T-90 tanks, Tu-95 strategic bombers, and Cossack militias come to mind – and his longing for the glory of bygone eras.

Alarm bells chimed when Putin, in a 2008 parliamentary speech, lamented the demise of the Soviet Union. When he annexed Crimea and resurrected the term “Novorossiya” – a nod to the Russian Empire that means “New Russia” – those same bells shrieked. And now here we are, 25 years after the end of the Berlin Wall, wondering where Russia’s head of state is headed – and what’s going on in his head.

What does Putin really think, one wonders, about Stalin’s Great Purge? Or of Bolshevik spin-offs like Mao and Pol Pot popping up in Stalin’s wake? What does he honestly make of Soviet-damning literature like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago”, or Arthur Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon”? How does he feel, even, about the metaphysical musings in Dostoyevsky’s work? Answers to such questions might be helpful in forecasting Putin’s next moves – and useful in gleaning the mindset of his presumably hand-picked successor.

When I think of the Soviets I often think of my friends from eastern Germany. One friend’s father used to tell me, over a bottle of brandy on many occasions, about the old DDR days. He liked to tell one story in particular, about his friend and neighbor who disappeared one afternoon after being snatched by the Stasi – “einfach verschwunden!” my friend’s father would shout in amazement – only to reappear months later, petrified to tell anyone what had happened. I also sometimes think about another friend’s father – a leader in Alexander Dubček’s Prague Spring – who was tortured by the Soviets for his opposition to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. What would Putin, an ex-KGB colonel, say to both of them?

When I first came to Hamburg many years ago you’d still see the occasional “Ami Go Home!” poster plastered on walls and lampposts in the left-leaning Schanzenviertel. (The snarky sign, big in the east, was inspired by a 1950s Ernst Busch song calling for American troops still in the country to beat it, in case you’re not familiar with it.) Whenever I spotted one, I would wonder if the wisdom of such a sentiment had really been adequately considered and recorded for posterity. After all, those American military personnel who hung around Germany right after World War 2 not only had the good sense to call out a Soviet ideology going haywire, but also the chutzpah to build their own wall – of defensive tanks and troops – to back that sentiment up. But this all prompts another question: Does Putin still believe that western European and American Cold War policy was entirely misguided – as he professed to do when he was a cold warrior on the other side of the Wall?

Much in the world today that was brick and mortar is now made of bits and bytes. And it’s conceivable that future large-scale barriers to people’s freedoms might be virtual rather than physical. Do such things interest Vladimir Putin? Is Putin our comrade, or is he intent on placing new bricks in entirely new kinds of walls?

Look Up

Planetarium Hamburg, Stadtpark Photo: Tim Florian Horn

When you’re busy searching the supermarket baskets for a ripe avocado – or pecking out another e-mail at work, or ogling a chat show from the couch – it’s easy to forget you are living on a spinning ball of iron ore blasting through an exploding universe. And that’s just where a place like the Planetarium Hamburg comes in handy: an offbeat reminder to drop our humdrum routines now and then and just look up.

But craning your neck skyward, of course, might not only cause a few physical aches, but possibly some metaphysical ones in the bargain. Where did it all come from up there? If you turn to today’s experts for help, you might be left still baffled. Rock star physicist Stephen Hawking, for example, says the universe could have created itself from nothing. But that does, well, nothing to unburden us from the old ex nihilo nihil fit conundrum: how can something come from nothing? (It also brings to mind Martin Rees, Britain’s Astronomer Royal, who noted awhile back that while Hawking is a fine physicist, his philosophical and theological skills really aren’t all that.)

But another celebrity physicist, Lawrence Krauss, thinks he has Hawking’s back. Krauss will tell you that things do, indeed, pop out of “nothing” in our universe. Just take a vacuum state in space, he says, throw in the laws of quantum mechanics – and poof: all sorts of things can pop into existence – and routinely do. But the semantic sleight of hand here is obvious: quantum vacuums – not to mention the universe itself and the physical laws operating in this cosmic recipe – are certainly not nothing; they are, in fact, a whole lot of something. Krauss’s linguistic misdirection involves using the word “nothing” the way one might in describing a quiet stretch of road in the Bavarian countryside by saying, “There is absolutely nothing here.” So much for certain experts. And so our star-gazing and head-scratching continues.

Designed by Hans Loop in the 1920s, the Planetarium Hamburg was built, presumably, to help foster public interest in just such cosmological quandaries. Engineers fabricated the planetarium out of a derelict water tower – which gives it the perfectly zany look of a comic book rocket ship ready to blast off – and added a reflecting pool that does a dandy job of doubling its otherworldly spookiness. Inside, you’ll find lots to help you on your scientific quest, including brainy laser shows about the cosmos to watch in the comfy theater – which uses a new-fangled Zeiss projector to unleash the celestial archipelago across its roomy dome. (If you don’t speak German, though, be sure to check the planetarium’s schedule to see if an accompanying narration is available in English; bring a Freund along if not.)

Planetaria like the one in Hamburg are great at getting us to redirect our gazes from the smartphones in our palms to something much smarter above our heads – at least for a moment. And for those less ontologically-inclined day-trippers, a visit to the beast in Hamburg’s beautiful Stadtpark can at least demonstrate just how much can be done with an old water tower.

 Planetarium Hamburg, Otto-Wels-Straße 1

Art’s Unstoppable Zombie

Johannes Brahms Museum in Hamburg-Neustadt

You have to wonder why so many people insist that classical music is dead, when there it always, unmistakably, is – still waltzing, still bassooning – in the soundtracks of scores of modern films. There it is, still alive, slinking in during that sad scene, and stomping around during that breathless one – unspooling slowly in the final credits. Today it’s just John Williams and Howard Shore instead of Handel and Liszt; Maurice Jarre and Hans Zimmer, not Mahler and Mendelssohn. Classical music isn’t dead: it’s just dragging itself through darkened movie theaters like a zombie from a horror flick whom the townsfolk thought was good and buried.

If you’re keen to see where many of today’s film composers of the classical bent got their chops, just look at the past masters. And if you’re in Hamburg, you can get an up-close glimpse of one of those early auteurs by stopping by the charming Johannes Brahms Museum on the Peterstraße.

Brahms, by any account, certainly gives the Hansestadt on the Elbe a serious dose of cultural cred: the native Hamburger, along with Bach and Beethoven, is one of Hans von Bülow’s “Three Bs” – that fabled troika of musical mavericks that has come to signify orchestral music at its most soaring. And the Brahms Museum, to its credit, has done a good job of chronicling the composer’s lofty spot in the pantheon; you’ll find biographical tidbits galore on display, including one of Brahms’s early keyboards: a gorgeous Baumgardten & Heins Tafelklavier that looks heavier than an Airbus 380.

If you catch a horror film this Halloween, be on the lookout for ghosts of another kind while watching: the spirits of Johannes Brahms and his cohorts haunting the soundtrack maybe. You might also be reminded that movie zombies aren’t the only things in the art world that refuse to die.

Johannes Brahms Museum, Peterstraße 39, Hamburg