Modernist Memoriam

Museum Ludwig pays homage to Wern­er Mantz (1901-1983) – one of the most promi­nent pho­to­g­ra­phers of the Neues Bauen move­ment of mod­er­nist ar­chi­tec­ture dur­ing the 1920s. Born and raised in Cologne, in 1921 he opened a pho­to stu­dio, where he ini­tial­ly took por­traits of fa­mous in­tel­lec­tu­als, artists, and politi­cians. In 1926 he be­gan re­ceiv­ing com­mis­sions as an ar­chi­tec­tu­ral pho­to­g­ra­pher for Wil­helm Riphahn, Peter Franz Nöck­er and Cas­par Maria Grod. It was Mantz’s pic­tures that made Cologne’s mod­er­nist ar­chi­tec­ture renowned be­yond the boun­daries of the ci­ty.

Cu­ra­tor Miri­am Hal­wani: “Mantz pho­to­graphed mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture and chil­dren look­ing se­ri­ous­ly in­to the cam­era on their first com­mu­nion. As ba­nal as his sub­jects seem, dur­ing the pre­pa­ra­tions for the ex­hi­bi­tion I was sur­prised by the cool­ness and eeri­ness that his pic­tures ex­ude. The build­ings that he pho­to­graphed are de­void of peo­ple, clean, al­most vir­tu­al. We do not know the iden­ti­ties of the peo­ple in the por­traits tak­en in his stu­dio in the 1950s. In a way, we are on­ly left with out­er shells. And it is pre­cise­ly for this rea­son that the th­ese pic­tures per­sist in our me­m­o­ry.”

Werner Mantz, Architectures and People, 14 October – 21 January, Museum Ludwig, Cologne.

1. Werner Mantz, Café Wien, Cologne, 1929, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017, Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln, Cologne.