Welcome to Bad Godesberg

Welcome to Bad Godesberg

‘Encounter‘ by Eva de Maizière

Welcome to Bad Godesberg

Eva de Maizière, ‘Encounter’, 1978

This post has nothing to do with history but concerns an artwork which speaks to me.  I would like to introduce you to a sculpture in Bad Godesberg, a southern suburb of Bonn.  Often remembered for its abundance of embassies during the time when Bonn was the capital of West Germany.  The “Bad” (spa) refers to its older history as a place with a spring with health benefits.

You may notice the bronze sculpture when walking across the Theaterplatz in the pedestrian area in Bad Godesberg towards the Fronhof Galleria (a shopping centre).  It’s relatively small, so you may overlook it.  There probably once was a plaque giving some information, but that is no longer legible.  However, with the help of the internet it is easy enough to find out that it is titled Begegnung (Encounter) and that it was created by Eva de Maizière in 1978.

Eva de Maizière was born in 1915 in Hannover and died in 2003 in Bonn.  She first studied music, playing the cello.  She was married to an army officer and they had four children. Her husband was to accede to the highest rank in the (then West) German defence force.  Eva only started sculpting in her mid-50s by taking part in various courses.  She explained in an interview with the daily Bonn newspaper, the General-Anzeiger, that her aim was to show human beings in their diversity.  Not only a sculptor, she became also famous for her paintings. She had more than 90 exhibitions and went on to teach painting in Brazil, western Africa, Spain, Israel and East Germany (this was before the wall came down in 1989).

The choice of her ‘Encounter’ was not uncontroversial.  In 1976, a local bank donated DM 30.000, which the town council earmarked for an artwork in the Bad Godesberg shopping precinct.  The council’s criteria were that it should be a young artist, living in Bonn or its close environs.  While the process was underway, another late entry was mentioned and “young” was no longer a requirement.  After several other shady moves, Eva de Maizière’s suggestion (the late entry) was given the thumps up.  Given her husband’s position there were suspicions that certain people had influenced the selection process.  This might be true or not, but ‘Encounter’ was erected at the chosen spot in 1978 and still stands there.

The sculpture has been criticised as too traditional.  It certainly has not a “modern” feel and obviously I can’t judge it in comparison to the other entries at the time, not having seen those.  However, I like it very much.

The sculpture shows a man and a woman.  The two are facing each other with their heads leaning towards the other, their feet are also close together, forming an oblong. The man’s left hand is on the woman’s right shoulder.  It looks like a chance encounter of two old friends.  They don’t only encounter each other, they welcome each other.

At the time when it was erected and Bad Godesberg was full of diplomats from all over the world, the welcoming gesture was certainly appropriate.  And today, every time I come back to Bonn and Bad Godesberg I feel welcomed by it.

Sources:

Sondermann, M., ‘Eva de Maizière – Bad Godesberg: Spätberufene in Sachen Kunst‘, General-Anzeiger (26 March 2015).  URL:  http://www.general-anzeiger-bonn.de/bonn/bad-godesberg/Bad-Godesberg-Sp%C3%A4tberufene-in-Sachen-Kunst-article1598152.html [last accessed 3 Sept. 2019]

Zabel-Zottmann, G., ‘Vergabe öffentlicher Aufträge. Beispiel 3: Eva de Maizière, Begegnung’, in: Skulpturen und Objekte im öffentlichen Raum der Bundeshauptstadt Bonn, Teil 1, PhD Thesis, Bonn University (2012), pp. 128-135.  Available from Bonn University at URL:  http://hss.ulb.uni-bonn.de/fakultaet/phil/2012.htm

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