The Gates of the Gutenberg Museum - a 12 part series attempting to unravel the mystery of the bronze gates of the Gutenberg Museum.
4 massive sculptures by one of the most significant German figurative sculptors of the mid to late 20th century.
In this series:
Part 1 - The Story so far
Part 2 - Johannes Gutenberg and his museum
Part 3 - A new museum
Part 4 - The Commission
Part 5 - The Artist
Part 6 - The Decision
Part 7 - The Gates
One of the chosen few
Part 8 - The Process
Part 9 - Talkin' 'bout a Revolution
Part 10 - Lost and Unlost
Part 11 - But where are the originals?
Part 12 - Mystery solved?
Making a mark
Just like a bad dream
Elementary, my dear Watson
"With all the charm of a roller-skating rink" was the way Hans Halbey, a retired Director of the Gutenberg Museum, described the courtyard of the Gutenberg Museum in April 2001.
1989: Architectural competition to extend the museum
1990: No money (as usual)
1991: As above
1992: As above
1993: As above
1994: As above
1995: Have another look at the plans. Do it cheaper.
1996: Planning phase starts
1998: Work starts
2000: Grand opening
Rainer Schell doesn't appear to have hit it off with the Grandees of Mainz - in an unprecedented breach of protocol, he wasn't invited to speak at the opening of his museum in 1962 and is supposed to have then said "Fine with me, YOU try and open the door without the key...".
The architects for the extension, Rossmann + Partner, don't appear to have been too keen on Rainer Schell's concept of the traditional courtyard, either.
They wanted to open it up to the public and the fact that the patrons in the newly opened café would coincidentally have a clear view of the cathedral had NOTHING to do with it, of course.
The gates obviously needed to be removed temporarily to allow building site access, but the strange thing is that if you look at the documentation (pdf, 2.2MB, German language) of the extension, you'll find nary a MENTION of the gates and no indication on the plans that the architect had the SLIGHTEST intent of integrating them in his design.
A year after the grand opening, along comes Hans Halbey and talks to Werner Wenzel from the Mainzer Allgemeine Zeitung, questioning the whereabouts of the gates and a stone sculpture of an open book by the renowned stonemasons Wilmsen-Kubach.
The head of Mainz's cultural office, Peter Krawietz, is quotes as saying that "of COURSE the book will be returned to its rightful place, but I'm not sure if we'll be able to meet the ex-Director's expectations as far as the other objects are concerned..."
After all, they only cost DM180,000 back in 1962. Plus the artist's fee..
Then it occurred to the city that no-one had the VAGUEST idea where the gates were.
A retired mayor and cultural head honcho, Anton-Maria Keim is supposed to have said to Karl-Heinz Krause "You'll have to lodge a complaint with the police" to which he replied "Well, they're not actually MINE. I believe they're now the property of the city..."
Frantic activity and in no time at all, they're tracked down to a building material depot in the appropriately named Henkackerweg (Chickensh*t Lane. Or as Paul probably correctly points out Henk Acker Weg)
Karl-Heinz Krause receives a handwritten note from the mayor notifying him of the "existence and appropriate storage" of the "objects" and that they've had a concept for "their future use for some time".
Appropriate storage? Just look at the deformation of the panels, for goodness' sake.
And the concept for future use?
Line the narrow dark passage that used to be the Seilergasse before it was enclosed by the linkage between Schell's museum and the new extension.
The late night reveller's favourite micturatorium.....
The artist is supposed to have said "Well, in THAT case, why don't we just arrange them in a hollow square somewhere and designate them as a public pissoir..?"
Back to the drawing board.
It's difficult to find someone who can shed light on the background to the current placement of the panels.
Purged from collective memories most likely (and Freud would probably have something to say about that), but someone had the bright idea of relocating them in their original position, but swivelled 90º.
So that the café patrons can have an unobstructed view of the cathedral...