Three to four squares, each nested inside the other. Each a different colour. Everyone has seen the pictures which form the "Homage to the Square" series. It was with these, and other works of art, that painter, colour philosopher and student of the Bauhaus movement Josef Albers wrote art history. An entire museum – the Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop – is now dedicated to Albers in the city of Bottrop, where he was born in 1888. The city's homage to a great artist? Yes, but also the artist's homage to the city.
In 1970, long after he had moved away from the city, Bottrop made Albers an honorary citizen. Albers donated some of his works to the city as a gesture of thanks. In turn, the city decided to build a museum and thus kill two birds with one stone – finding an appropriate setting in which to display Albers' paintings as well as providing the Heimatmuseum Bottrop, which features exhibits that focus on prehistory and local history, with some more space. Thus, the Museumszentrum Quadrat was opened in September 1976, an institution which combined natural and cultural history and the visual arts under one roof.
Joseph Albers died just a few months after it was opened. In 1979, more than 300 works from his estate came into the museum's possession. This is because it was Albers' personal wish that pictures from his artistic work be kept on permanent display in Bottrop. An expansion to the museum centre was required to make space for works from across all phases of Albers' career. This then opened in 1983 in the form of the Josef Albers Museum. Like the first building, this expansion to the museum was inspired by the "Homage to the Square" series of works when it came to its architecture – a "Homage to the Homage to the Square".
To this day, Albers' experiments with colour continue to impress and inspire us to reflect on colours and the effects that they have on us. "Only appearances are not deceiving." The meaning behind this quote from the painter is more easily understood when observing his paintings from the "Homage to the Square" series. Depending on how they are combined, the colours appear more vibrant or more pale; surfaces blend into the background or stand out in stark contrast to it. In doing so, the images are more a homage to colour than they are to the square. After all, Albers considered the squares to be merely "trays on which he served the colour".
In addition to the permanent exhibition featuring Albers' works, the museum has also made a name for itself across Germany with its high-quality photo exhibitions. Over the past years, it has hosted large solo exhibitions featuring the photographic works of artists such as Bernd and Hilla Becher, Walker Evans, Claus Goedicke or Axel Hütte.
Insider tip: You can find many sculptures from artists such as Max Bill, Erwin Heerich, Donald Judd, Hans Steinbrenner or Bernard Venet in the museum complex, idyllically situated in Bottrop's city garden.
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