The strangers



…. on the roof

They have long been part of Lübeck, standing high above our field of vision and perhaps not even immediately recognizable as a significant work of art dedicated to a serious and still red-hot topic, namely those people who flee their homeland to escape war, persecution and death and have to start a new life in foreign surroundings.

For the 9th documenta in Kassel in 1992, the artist Thomas Schütte created a permanent installation entitled “Die Fremden” (The Strangers), inspired by the Gulf War at the time and the large flows of Kurdish refugees. Lübeck owes the fact that part of the impressive installation can be seen today on the roof of the Music and Congress Hall to the Possehl Foundation and its then chairman Dr. Robert Knüppel. In 1994, the Foundation decided to donate a work of art to the city within the framework of “Art in Public Space”. The group on the roof of the Music and Congress Hall consists of 3 “persons” and 7 “pieces of luggage” and is thus only a part of the documenta work.

The figures made of glazed terracotta weigh up to 300 kilograms and are up to 2 metres high. Here, the colourful figures high above, the austere architecture of the building and the historic brick architecture of the Old Town opposite form a contrasting triad.
If you take a break at the MuK and look up, new perspectives on the subject open up: it seems to me as if the “strangers” with their lowered gaze are looking at the people walking the street and also at me. They, however, are excluded from everyday life in the city, standing not only on the outskirts, but even in an elevated place almost out of reach. However, they turn to the Old Town with their eyes closed as if inwardly preparing themselves for everything new that lies ahead. And they radiate a great calm and dignity. After all, they have their enriching culture and their own traditions with them, which they would like to share with the people in their new home country. In this respect, this example of art in construction is one that radiates hope for me.

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written by:

Barbara Schwartz