Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof, is a former railway station which now serves as the city’s Museum für Gegenwart, or “Museum for the Present”. I visited the renowned contemporary art museum eager to see their permanent Marx collection centered around the work of Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, and Andy Warhol.  I had also heard great things about the current solo exhibition, Martin Honert’s Kinderkreuzzug, in the main hall.  I approached the ticket booth with my pass to all of Berlin’s Nationalgalerie museums and was disappointed to hear that it would only grant me access to the museum’s permanent collection.  But as I peered over the head of the seated ticket lady and saw what looked like life-sized action figures and sculptural re-enactments of scenes from picture books from my childhood. My inner 6 year old begged me to see the exhibition Lacking the extra 5 euros the exhibition would cost, I decided to walk confidently past the ticket-checkers hoping they wouldn’t stop me. And I’m glad that I did.


In Kinderkreuzzug, Honert transforms memories from his childhood into elaborate three-dimensional objects.  Standing in front of his installations, I experienced a collection of wide-ranging snapshots from the impressionable memories of a child.  Honert works from his old photographs, childhood drawings, and images directly imprinted in his memory to create dramatized illustrations of specific moments from his own biography.


Artist Martin Honert was born in Bottrop, a city in the Ruhr region of West Germany, in 1953.  Specific aspects of West Germany during this time are highly present in Kinderkreuzzug, which relies on images from Honert’s youth to serve as glimpses into the specific time and place in which he grew up.  I felt like I was inside of Honert’s memory as I walked through models of native trees, typical architecture of the Ruhr Valley, illustrations of the his father’s cigar boxes’ contents, family photos, and imagined visions of children stories and historical events depicted in fantastical drawings. These are just a few examples of deep seeded images cemented in Honert’s memory and actualized in the exhibition Kinderkreuzzug. 


Together, these moments fully realized in life-size sculptural works transcend his own personal memory and depict the socialization of an entire generation raised in West Germany in the 1950’s.  Each piece was numbered and accompanied by a corresponding explanation written by the artist himself in the small exhibition catalogue.  With this addition, Honert explains the significance of each object that the viewer simultaneously encountered dramatized before them in life-size form.


Contributed by Nina Potepan



Santa Claus. 2002. Polyester, polystyrene, and acrylic on wood. 220 x 100 x 80 cm. Modeled after childhood drawing in faint pencil. Image courtesy of Hamburger Bahnhof.

House. 1988. Mixed Media. 53 x 38 x 48 cm. Modeled after the typical house in the Ruhr Region. Image courtesy of Hamburger Bahnhof.

Table with Jello, Red Upholstered Chair. 1983. Wood, plaster laminate, electric motor, and Jello-O. 100 x 60 x 80 cm. Modeled from memory of time spent at a boarding school in eastern Westphalia. Image courtesy of Hamburger Bahnhof.

A Model Scenario of the Flying Classroom. 1995. Polystyrene, epoxy resin, and acrylic on wood. 400 x 600 x 400 cm. Work contributed to the German Pavilion of the 1995 Venice Biennale. Modeled after Erich Kästner's children's book Das fliegende Klassenzimmer (The Flying Classroom), published in 1933. Image courtesy of Hamburger Bahnhof.

Photo. 1993. Epoxy resin, oil and acrylic on wood. 100 x 100 x 123 cm. Model taken from parents' photo collection. Photo of artist as a child in 1958. Image courtesy of Hamburger Bahnhof.



Press Release (Excerpt):


Childhood memories are central to Martin Honert’s artworks which will be presented by the Nationalgalerie in a comprehensive solo exhibition in the main hall of Hamburger Bahnhof. Derived from images that have been preserved in his memory as well as family photographs and drawings he made as a child, the artist recreates moments from his own past and transforms them into three-dimensional objects.


In a complicated creative process, he condenses memories of games, lessons and scenes from his childhood into single impressive pictures. Behind every object is a story that has been shaped by the fantasies, ambivalent feelings and experiences of a child. The remembered moments are based on personal memories and yet at the same time are a testament to childhood in the early years of the Federal Republic of Germany in the post-war period.

Commenting on the central theme of his art, Martin Honert said, “Childhood is certainly not a theme because I think my own was particularly eventful or bad or good. My childhood was no doubt just as dull and boring as anyone else’s. What’s important to me is to explore things that may well have happened a long time ago but continue to exist for me as an image, a memory.” The artist lives and works in Düsseldorf and Dresden.


Link to exhibition page: