Germany, Light Crap

Way to go, Germany, Pt. II

There is a massive backlog of things occupying my mind I’ve been meaning to unload. Some are more recent, some are from long ago, but all require your immediate attention.

In addition to my previous post, Way to go, Germany!, here is a place you should go.

The Walther Collection outside of Ulm, Germany, is just one more chapter in that age old story of ‘son-leaves-town-becomes-partner-at-Goldman-Sachs-leaves-it-to-become-big-fancy-art-collector-accumulates-a-pile-of-amazing-African-photography-decides-to-turn-house-where-he-grew-up-in-middle-of-nowhere-into-world-class-art-space.’


And it is in the middle of nowhere, I first stumbled upon the gallery back in 2011 in a New York Times article and developed an instant infatuation. It’s often thought that in opening up shop, you should put it in a place where your  audience is found. But then there’s the opposite.

First you have to go to Ulm. Then you take a bus to Neu-Ulm and then a bus to Burlafingen, which feels like a suburb of nowhere. Fields surround it and the complex sits on the edge of town. Besides his boyhood home, Walther has built or retrofitted a couple other buildings to string together 10,000 square feet of space.


There is a triumphant air about landmark galleries like those by Gehry and Calatrava. But there is something equally amazing about recognizing that the only important thing is what hangs on the walls. And that  communication comes by minimizing distractions and isolating your subject. And so you take it out of the city, pop it in the suburbs where it’s nice and quiet and nobody really bothers.

The space here fits in with the community, but there’s no signage leading there. When I visited, it was only by chance that I picked the right turn to get there (pre-smart phone days). The hours are extremely limited, but the people are friendly.

On the day that I arrived, I was fortunate enough that there were three others visiting and so they let me in even though it would normally be closed. I wandered happily through the space. Spent plenty of time taking in the scenes and learning a lot more about Africa than I had ever known before through the eyes of Africans.


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