Bonn. Bonn’s Art Association has a library which loans out paintings and prints with minimum hassle. It’s called Artothek and is open to everyone.
Anyone who makes frequent overseas moves is faced with the regular dilemma of boxing up bulky belongings and taking them to a new place in the next country. Oftentimes, wall art is not viewed as an essential and it gets left behind or ignored altogether. People who are new to Bonn may make the obligatory IKEA run, visit flea markets, home stores or even hang up the kids’ art work to make the house feel more like home. Those are all good options. But there is another option that is less well known.
Bonn’s Artothek was founded by the Bonner Kunstverein (Art Association) in 1987. Picture it like a library with art. There are over 1,000 contemporary art works, including framed drawings, paintings, photographs and prints, and they can all be ‘checked out’ or loaned for a small fee. Private persons and businesses such as medical and law offices or restaurants typically borrow the art work for 2, 4 or 6 months. When they get tired of the art work, they just exchange it.
According to British national Michelle Cotton, Director of the Bonner Kunstverein, Artotheks sprung up from a very social-minded initiative that became popular across Germany in the 1980’s. The idea was that art was not something you could only encounter in a museum but also something that you could live with, affordable for everyone and not needing to cost more than a family trip to the cinema. The concept is familiar to many Germans but not necessarily to the mobile international community who could also benefit from it.
How does it work? People can go and browse through the collection and select which paintings or art work they wish to borrow. They register with Artothek, which requires them to be over the age of 18, and have a German address. Cotton says, “An ID card or passport is required but the whole process takes less than ten minutes.” Registrants then receive an Artothek ID and this allows them to borrow as many works as they like.
What does it cost? The Artothek ID is 8 euros. Each work costs 12 euros for every 2 months. The loan fees include insurance. All works are framed and have their own carry cases so they can be easily and safely transported. There is also a special welcome for those new to Bonn. Cotton explains, “All newcomers to Bonn receive a ‘Neubürger Gutschein’ (newcomer gift certificate) from us when they register with the city. This gives them one free loan and waives the initial year’s registration fee.” As well, members of the Kunstverein receive a reduced rate.
Who hangs up the paintings? Artothek offers a service to come and hang up the paintings and this is popular with business clients. Most other people choose to take their pictures home and hang them up themselves. Consultations are also available.
The Bonner Kunstverein which houses Artothek is internationally-minded because it has been doing exhibitions with artists from all over the world for over 50 years. All staff speak both German and English, and last year they focused on making all of their communications bilingual.
For those new to Bonn and still staring at empty walls, or those who like the idea of being able to decorate a house or apartment with art from an extensive collection, and then change it up periodically, a visit to Artothek might be worthwhile. Visitors can browse through the art collection Thursdays from 2 - 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. (Hochstadenring 22). For more information, check out the English language website: http://www.bonner-kunstverein.de/en/artothek/