My favorite thing about Dusseldorf is the respectable modern architecture. “Respectable modern architecture” is a feat in and of itself. The 1970′s hit Britain and America pretty hard, and you can still see edifices with all the grace and pizazz of a gray shoebox dotting the skylines of our cities. Somehow, across the whole of Western civilization for a solid decade, the loftiest creative ambitions mustered by architects was to erect squat buildings that imitate beige filing cabinets. I’m still utterly unaware of what architects were thinking in the seventies. Presumably ugly buildings can better withstand Soviet nukes.
Not in Dusseldorf, though! Here the modern buildings were designed with panache. You can argue that they’re inelegant or dated, but you cannot contend that they’re boring. In the now defunct part of Dusseldorf Harbor, presently a media hub, a building is forever crawling with huge plastic frog men. Frank Gehry was given free reign on a stretch of the Rhine, and the Hyatt’s bar looks like a parked UFO.
At the end of the stretch of media and advertising buildings is the landesrat, the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia. I rather like it– it looks properly Orwellian. Beyond that is the Aldstadt, a dense neighborhood of pubs and bierhausen, so-called “the longest bar in Europe.”
My hosts, Christian and Frederiche, very graciously escorted me around town, answering questions and directing me to historically pertinent breweries. After the Aldstadt we checked out Konigsalli. In English that would read King’s Alley, but it wouldn’t do the term justice. It’s a long street flanked by trees on either side of a canal. Each store on Konisgalli houses upscale brand names like Chanel or Louis Vatton.
Dusseldorf is the fashion capital of Germany, with obligatory clothiers, style gurus and models. (It was at a local disco in Dusseldorf that Claudia Schiffer was discovered.) As we entered Konigsalli I caught sight of an actual catwalk, complete with strutting, aloof models and a guy playing a saxophone.
After lingering at the catwalk for a bit, Christian took me to Luna, an art dealership which sells photography at prices which are at least recognizable by earth standards. My second favorite photo was of a suited German man peering into a forest while adjusting a gramophone. His gaze and poise indicate resolve alongside mild irritation, as if he’d been blasting Wagner for several nights to the utter ambivalence of resident colobus monkeys.
By far the best photo was in the downstairs gallery by Sylvie Blum: a naked woman riding a lion!
Here I must clarify. It’s not that the woman is merely nude. (In fact with minimal effort there are many pictures of naked women available on the internet.) Nor is it simply the presence of a lion. The photo is brilliant because the naked woman is riding the lion.
I cannot yet explain the deep resonance with which the photo strikes me. But suffice it to say that in the male mind naked women and dangerous predators are somehow inextricably linked.
In tandem, the unattired lady astride the deadly carnivore feels satisfyingly congruent.
Photo Credit: “Angela Rides the Lion 2008 ” by Sylvie Blum