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June 2016
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Unterlinden: a modern showcase for the amazing Isenheim Altarpiece

Retable d’Issenheim dans le Musée Unterlinden Colmar. Une Halte à Colmar juin 2016 PLUMEVOYAGE @plumevoyagemagazine © ludovic bischoff

The Unterlinden Museum is one of the oldest in France. Founded in 1853 in a former Dominican convent in the city center of Colmar, it has accumulated donations over the years. Until being a little cramped in its historic walls. A huge expansion site has been entrusted to the firm Herzog & de Meuron. By seizing disused former municipal baths and by completely redesigning its museum, the architects created a new set that is ideally integrated into the « Alsatian” architecture of Colmar. The visitor who discovers this space for the first time can not imagine the gigantic project which was held here for years. The result is a great nave to an exceptional collection that we rediscover with happiness. In the cloister of the monastery, the arts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance radiate. A centerpiece is by itself the trip to Unterlinden: the Isenheim Altarpiece. Painted by Mathias Grünwald in the early 16th century, this altarpiece is for the first time presented in its entirety in the chapel of the convent. One is struck by the incredible modernity of this painting representing monsters that have their place in the contemporary world of Tolkien or colorful pop Christ that one could see painted on the wall of a new age hippies shop of San Francisco! A variety of styles and incredible modernity for a work that was supposed to help the sick persons of “fire of St. Anthony” to bear their horrible disease that transformed their bodies and clouded their minds with hallucinogenic visions. This altarpiece is a unique piece that has inspired many modern artists (such as Picasso and Francis Bacon) and all the major museums of the world dream of having it on their walls! But continue your visit, including in the Ackerhof, the new building that houses the modern art collection that the museum could not present before this expansion. The tapestry of Jacqueline de La Baume, reproducing the monumental painting by Picasso, Guernica, which there are only three copies in the world, is a work that resonates perfectly with the terrifying Isenheim Altarpiece …


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