Das Boot — from War to Peace

Lothar-Guenther Buchheim

What has an iconic WWII submarine movie have to do with street art? Well, if you are on the shores of Lake Starnberg in the Alpine foothills ─ a short commuter train hop from Munich ─ quite a bit. We took a leisurely day trip to the Buchheim Museum to see an exhibition of Munich street art. I was eager to continue an earlier story on the city’s art scene. The museum was founded by Lothar-Guenther Buchheim, the author of the 1973 book Das Boot. In 1981 Wolfgang Peterson directed the movie based on the book and it earning six Oscar nominations. The permanent collection at the museum leans toward phantasmagoric and anti-war peace themes. The current street art exhibition of photographs printed on canvas by WON ABC reflects this genre and the museum founder’s underground art interests.

The Starnberg region is one of the wealthiest areas in Germany located about 16 miles southwest of Munich. It has popular biking and hiking paths circumnavigating the lake under a backdrop of towering Alpine peaks. The most notable resident of the area is the Duke of Bavaria. Previously, Ludwig II, the King of Bavaria (1845–1886) ─ also known as the “Mad King’ and the “Swan King” for his fairy-tale Neuschwanstein Castle ─ used the lake as his summer home. He was declared mentally incapable of ruling Bavaria and shortly thereafter found dead, floating in the lake. Since then, the area has acquired a modern posh reputation with easy access to metropolitan Munich.

Lothar-Guenther Buchheim (1918–2007), no stranger to being called eccentric or the “Starnberg Volcano” for his rows with city authorities, used his considerable fortune from art dealings and the success of his book and movie rights to build the striking Buchheim Museum on the shore of the lake. Many of the fantasy pieces of art in his Museum of the Imagination only heighten his eccentricity. There is a kinship between this art and the gritty claustrophobic WWII German U-boat environment of confusion, filth, and sheer terror.

The Museum’s street art exhibition was created by WON ABC, a founder of the Munich graffiti scene. “Police investigators confirmed that the 28-year sprayer, in a trial in 1996, was one of the best in Europe.” He was an accomplished writer who turned his attention to the calligraphic and more figurative elements of his characters. He has spray-painted in Guatemala, Mexico, USA, Jamaica, Cuba, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, North Africa, and in most countries of Europe. He is the first graffiti artist to work at the Buchheim Museum of Imagination. Along with other artists, the sprayers were commissioned to paint a Polish military helicopter landed at the Museum and transformed into a piece of art, “From War to Peace.”

And to cap off the visit to the Museum of the Imagination ─ peace now ─ the Swedes awarded Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize for Literature!

There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’ / It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls / For the times they are a-changin’/

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