When you go downtown Nuremberg one of the things you will notice is that the city has large, free-standing works of art placed all throughout the streets and on the walls of buildings.
A lot of them seem to fit naturally. They are historic monuments, obelisks and monoliths honoring famous Nürnbergers or the many historic figures of Germany, or dedicated to specific events in the city or country’s history.
There is a rhyme and reason to most the artwork downtown Nuremberg.
For the most part. …There is one piece of “art” standing smack dab in the center of Karolinenstraße in the shopping district, though.
There is no real explanation for its existence, looking like maybe it fell off the back of a truck and whoever was responsible for bringing the thing to the city might have just shrugged, said, “works for me” and just left it standing as is.
There is a placard at the base of the thing which has the inscription “Grosser Totem Henry Moore 1968 Gestiftet von der Karstadt AG 1979” That’s it. It’s just right in the middle of the street, facing the St. Lorenz church in front of department store Karstadt, but if you ask around in Karstadt or look online there is not much more of an explanation beyond the plaque as to what it is, why it’s there and why unlike everything else it’s just in the way.
I’m not alone in my confusion as to why the abomination is so prominently featured in such a popular part of town.
This review on check-in site / app Yelp! pretty much sums up most conversations I’ve had or overheard throughout the years about the thing.
It is strange that there isn’t much written online beyond obscure observations or a comment just noting that it exists.
My theory is that the backstory of how it came to be erected is like one I heard when I first came to live in Germany as a soldier.
My first, last, and only duty station was at the Rose Barracks in Vilseck because I met my wife while stationed there, got out and have been living in Germany ever since.
So, I had just arrived at Rose Barracks, Vilseck which is kind of in the middle of nowhere with not much more to do than marvel at how great the Army’s “weather machine” works.
It was a long weekend, I had off and decided to walk down to the front gate and catch a Taxi to downtown.
As I was mozying my way along, I noticed a poor unfortunate soul in dressed Full Battle Rattle on his hands and knees cutting the grass (with a pair of the tiniest scissors I had ever seen) around a historic, tracked vehicle on display in front of the main gates.
Desperate for any excuse to not be doing what he was doing he called me over. Within seconds, he said how much he hated that particular vehicle.
This was in late 2002, and he had apparently been stationed there for several years.
The military gives their duty stations, the brigades, battalions, companies, whatever group it pertains to a sum of money that is supposed to be spent on morale and welfare boosting activities, events, or things that people generally like.
Some people can dip into it if they’re good at a particular sport and have to travel for competitions they can go as a representative of the military and get reimbursed or we’d have mandatory fun days with barbecues or attending a ball and banquet.
Keeping that in mind, this guy had a special place in his heart dedicated to the hatred of that particular spot on post and whatever rested there.
Apparently a couple of years earlier a commander had been promising that if everyone was extra squared away he would have a swimming pool installed on post, the time came where he had to spend the money before the end of the fiscal quarter and his wife didn’t want to have to deal with the possibility of drunken soldiers at the on post swimming pool so she convinced him to spend the whole budget on a commemorative boulder instead.
Apparently the massive chunk of mineral was awesome and moved to some other military base in Germany and had been replaced with the tracked vehicle.
The guy dressed in all of his heavy armor and combat gear while he cut the grass had apparently been a little too emotionally attached to the idea of a swimming pool on post and voiced his opinion.
Ironically as a punishment for whatever he did, the powers that be decided to manicure that specific spot on post was sweet, sweet justice.
After that little rant, he started to ramble hoping I’d stick around so I smiled, thanked him for his outstanding service to God and country, told him he should probably get back to it what with and obligation to the American taxpayers all and hopped in a taxi.
…A taxi I took to the Schwimmbad off post.
That story of how and why a chunk of ugly mineral then old metal came to be set up on display at the front gates of the only military base I was ever stationed at is something that pops up in my mind every time I see the Grosser Totem.
Whether that little story has any similarities to der Grosser Totem came to be placed in Altstadt Nürnberg or not I do not know. It does say that it was donated by the Karstadt AG in 1979 and is standing by the entrance to the shop, but as far as why that particular piece I don’t know…
I have looked, asked, Googled and wondered but haven’t been able to really find any back story as to why it is there.
I did find this interesting about the artist Henry Moore though.
I have seen that he made several of these Large Head Totems which are all over the world, and his artwork can be found in a lot of cities in Germany.
- Karolinenstr. Nuremberg, Germany
- Museum of Fine Arts Montreal, Canada
- Nelson-Atkins Museum of Arts in Kansas City, MO USA
- Palma, Spain
- Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK
- Rockefeller Plaza, New York
- This link to christies.com listed the one there to be valued at $1,142,500.
- Signed and numbered ‘Moore 6/8
- Height: 96 in. (244 cm.)
Eight! That means there are at least eight of these things around the world!
Now you know.