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The cuckoo clock makes a comeback

Derided by many at pure kitsch not too long ago, the cuckoo clock is experiencing something of a renaissance. Artists, designers and clock manufacturers are now reinterpreting this so-very-German product.

The cuckoo clock makes a comeback
Photo: DPA

Once relegated to the walls of grandma’s house or a box in the cellar, the dusty image of the cuckoo clock is getting a polish as the traditional timekeepers get very modern makeovers. Their popularity is growing and their price tags are skyrocketing.

For example, artist Stefan Strumbel has found international success with his new takes on the clocks. Along with the traditional oak leaves and animals on the housing, Strumbel adds skulls, hand grenades, rats and submachine guns. He has expanded the color palettes of his clocks beyond the traditional dark or light browns to include yellows, greens, purples and pinks.

His clocks, which sell for up to €25,000, were the subject of a photo shoot by designer Karl Lagerfeld.

Ingolf Haas of the clock manufacturing company Rombach and Haas has been working on redesigns of the cuckoo clock for several years now. He said he started reworking the timekeepers when he realised that while people’s homes have changed over the decades, the cuckoo clock had gotten stuck in time.

“A cuckoo clock decorated with the head of a stag is just not going to be a good fit anymore,” he said.

Four years ago, he and designer Tobias Reischle began developing modern versions, using a minimalist aesthetic.

Now some 50 percent of his company’s turnover comes from the new cuckoo clocks. He saw overall sales volume increase 30 percent in 2009, while many other clockmakers are struggling to stay afloat.

For years, most of his clocks were sold to customers in the US, although the strong euro has now turned them into luxury goods for Americans. He notes that the clocks have begun selling well in Germany, although his more traditional-minded compatriots tend to turn their noses up at the new versions.

The clocks have a long history, having been mentioned as far back as 1629. In around 1730, they began to be made in Germany’s Black Forest region, and really hit their stride in the mid 19th century, when they became more and more elaborate.

After the Second World War, American soldiers stationed in Germany often sent cuckoo clocks home to their families.

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ART

Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.

mata-mua_gauguin-madrid

In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.

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