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1990 – 2008
New Concept, Building up the Collection, New Museum Building
Joachim M. Plotzek and Team
In 1990, Joachim M. Plotzek, curator for many years at Cologne's Schnütgen Museum, was appointed Director of our museum by Cardinal Meisner. In 1991, he named his own curators, Katharina Winnekes (previously from the Kunst-Station St. Peter) and Stefan Kraus (previously from the Cologne Kunstverein, among other posts) as well as Ulrike Surmann (Liebieghaus Frankfurt), who had initially come to carry out a project in preparation for a first manuscript exhibition and was then, in 1993, taken on as an additional curator.
In October 1992, the Museum at Roncalliplatz Square reopened with VATICANA after being closed for a year to renovate the museum spaces (all exhibitions listed in: Archive). The new concept, the establishing of a viable collection of contemporary art with individual works of medieval art and works stemming from Classical Modernism, as well as the preparation of an architectural competition were done as a teamwork during the following years. As the result of several years of negotiations with the parish council of St. Kolumba, it was possible to obtain the premises of the church ruins in the Cologne city center as a building site. Over the course of these years, specific exhibition formats and procedures were developed for a "museum of contemplation," accompanied by concerts of contemporary music (curated by Manos Tsangaris since 1994) and literary readings as well as the museum's own publication series exclusively dedicated to works in its own collection. After researching throughout Europe, at the end of 1996 an architectural competition was advertised, open for entries from the area of the Cologne Archdiocese, with seven additional international invitations. The Swiss master-builder Peter Zumthor, whom the curators had visited for the first time in the spring of 1993, was successful with his design in the anonymous bidding process in June of 1997. Ten years of intensive cooperation were to ensue between the architect and his staff, the engineering specialists who were brought in, the master builders of the Diocese (Josef Rüenauver and his successor Martin Struck), colleagues from the Building Office of the Archdiocese and the museum curators, borne by the common will to build a special place for people and art and leave no detail up to chance (see the building history year-by-year in the Menu: Architecture). Coinciding with the planning of the new building, exhibitions took place in which old and new art were placed opposite one another in such a way that they mutually supplemented and explained each other, for example "Concerning Ambivalence" (1996), "Infinite Space Expands" (Baden-Baden 1998), "Concerning Reality" (2000). Several times, the museum was to gain in reputation with exhibitions on medieval illuminated manuscripts: "Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana" (1992), "Faith and Knowledge in the Middle Ages" (1998), "Ars vivendi - Ars moriendi" (2001). In 1996, the Härle Donation brought nearly fifty works to the collection from one of the best private collections of medieval sculpture. In 1998, the Weininger Donation placed a surprising accent in the area of Classical Modernism, followed by Werner Schriefers's collection of works and forms in 2001. The collection profited considerably from further donations and the support of private and public foundations, for instance in the case of the purchase of the impressive Romanesque ivory crucifix in 1999, which had been preceded by extremely complicated negotiations. The ongoing support by the Renate König Foundation has considerably influenced the profile of the collection. In addition to essential acquisitions - for example, the golden reliquary crucifixes from the Wettin treasure - it has also made possible long-year restoration activities and the publishing of lavish and sophisticated book projects. After the "Diözesanmuseum” of the Archbishopric of Cologne marked its 150-year anniversary in 2003, already a year later, its name was changed to "Kolumba", the name that does justice to the location of its new home. Beginning with a Pontifical Mass at the Cologne Cathedral, the new building was officially dedicated on 14 September 2007. Only half a year later, in April of 2008, Joachim M. Plotzek was bid farewell on his retirement. Cardinal Meisner transferred the Museum's directorship to Stefan Kraus, with Katharina Winnekes taking over as his deputy director of the museum. The fourth curatorial position was permanently secured through the initiative of the Renate König Foundation. Marc Steinmann, who had come to the museum in 2003 for the computer-aided inventorying of the collection, was named "Renate König Foundation Curator", whose main emphasis concentrates on "communication".
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