Marta's Goat

The Museum Kunstpalast, often referred to as 'the treasure house of the city', celebrates its 100th year in 2012.
To mark the centenary a book was produced by the museum and the Rheinsche Post, 40 Düsseldorfers were asked to choose a piece of art work from the collection and write a personal story about this. I was absolutely delighted to be invited to write too (and hugely nervous!). 
I chose to write about Marta Klonowska's Glass Goat, an enchanting sculpture from the Hentrich Glass Collection, housed in one of my absolute favourite spots in the city.

The book is in German only and available in the gift store at the musuem and at bookshops in the city and includes contributions by cult director and Düsseldorfer Wim Wenders, City Mayor Dirk Elbers and video museum owner Julia Stoschek.

Here, my piece in English:

When I was 8 years old I was taken to Hamleys in London for the first time. 
At the time, this was said to be the largest toy shop in the world. All the other children left with toys, games, and teddy bears. I chose 8 small boxes of glass beads. Shiny, tiny and intriguing, in various shades of green.
I had no idea what I was going to do with them but they had to be mine.

Ever since that day, glass has always fascinated me. 

Choosing to 'create with glass' as a living seemed to be my destiny. This took me around the globe purchasing glass in all colours, forms and ages. From the Arizona desert to the markets of Kingston Town, the mosaic school in Montepulciano, to the factories in the grey industrial town of Gablonz in the Czech Republic and the musty antiques market in Bristol. One of my greatest finds was a garage bursting with 1930s and 40s glass and crystal beads and cabouchons, some made especially for a jewellery collaboration between Schiaparelli and Dalí. Many of these treasures had remained untouched since they had been produced, they were still wrapped in rustling, brown paper bags.

When I moved to Düsseldorf and found myself living almost next door to one of the most important collections of glass in Europe, the Hentrich Collection at the Museum Kunstpalast, it was quite obvious that this serene place would become one of my favourite spots in town.

The collection comprises of ancient historical glass dating back to the mid-14th to mid-13th centuries BC right up to the most contemporary studio glass. I love the colours and textures, the fragility of the pieces, and at the same time the boldness.
One of my favourite pieces has to be Marta Klonowska’s Goat entitled "Landschaft mit Apollo und der Cumäischen Sibylle", 2008, named after the painting of the same name by Alexander Keirincz (Antwerpen 1600-1652) and Cornelis van Poelenburch (Utrecht 1594/95-1667).
Utrecht 1594/95-1667).
Originally one of a collection of 6 animals, “Streichelzoo”, showing at the Spot On collection in 2008, Marta Klonowska’s glass animals are enchanting.
Familiar, yet mysterious, with a paradox, tactile quality about them.

The Hentrich Collection is now the home of one of those creatures. The Goat sits in the museum at the end of the studio glass row; the light catches its coat, radiating sparkles and reflections, depending on how you approach it. 
He does now seem a little alone, which is a shame. I'd prefer to see him with his friends as I got to know him when I first came across these magical creatures as a group which included a dog, a lemur and a lynx. They made me gasp. I wanted to reach out and touch. Even though the jagged spikes of the animals do look sharp, at the same time, it seems they just might be soft. It's so tempting to reach out and try.

Marta’s creatures can, in some ways, be very loosely interpreted as mosaics in 3D. She cuts glass sheets into shards and then attaches them with silicon to a metal frame and net, but not horizontally, she works the material vertically. The glass pieces stand out and create almost ‘fuzzy fur’. She also ‘paints’ with the glass, choosing the colours carefully, creating shades and movements in her creatures. As you observe them, you almost want to crawl in and see how they all hold together, if one can discover anything more ....
You are left perhaps with a kind of uncertainty. A longing to know something else. 
These sculptures are mystical, there is no doubt about it.

Visiting Marta in her studio in Düsseldorf is an exhilarating experience, a playground of 'schaffen' - creating. Just looking at how much work is involved in each creature gives me shoulder pain! I recall the repetitive movements of the intense process of creation and know I won't ever do that again for any real length of time. So with this very personal view I enjoy Marta’s glass sculptures all the more.

I envy Marta, in the nicest possible way, in as much as she creates sculptures without a thought of the 'why', or who will want this? She is determined that her pieces should not be too decorative, but why? I don’t really get that bit. They certainly are beyond ‘just’ decoration. Each animal gets you thinking, you kind of want to know more ... why did she choose to sculpt this particular creature? How do you think of creating a jagged glass animal?!

The theme behind these works is Marta’s fascination with the accessories and secondary subjects in classical landscapes of society folk of the 15th and 16th centuries. At first she made sculptures of the shoes she saw in these paintings, then she went on to re-create the animals one often finds in these works. Consequently these creatures take on a very individual life of their own; often quirky, certainly individual.
The Goat from "Landschaft mit Apollo und der Cumäischen Sibylle", 2008 seems somewhat indignant as it sits close by the two major subjects in the painting. He has his back to them. We want to know why.

Happily the glass creatures are shipped all over the globe to collectors and lovers of sculpture and glass.
They are stunning. Full of movement, character and charm. Marta deserves every success.

I love to open the doors of the Hentrich Glass Collection and bring people in who perhaps would normally not make it to that part of the museum. The look of astonishment is priceless as they too discover the common, and yet at the same time hidden, simply exquisite world of glass and all that that entails.
Everyone stops at the Goat. “What is that?” they ask. No one has ever seen anything like it.

No matter how many times I wander passed the Goat, alone or with a group, he always makes me stop and smile. And maybe, maybe, over time, he is beginning to smile back at me?