Emergency Happening, 1968
Ohoto: Branko Senjor, “Sechziger Jahre – Umbruchjahre”

Photografien aus der Münchener Kunstakademie. Munich 2006


- - -Aloys F. Gangkofner taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich for forty years, aside his work as a glass and lighting designer. During this time the only comparable training opportunity in southern Germany was at the Academy of Arts in Stuttgart. His workshop belonged to the Department of Interior Architecture and was connected to the Chair for Decorative Painting and Interior Design. The installation of a glass furnace in the ceramic workshop, in use from about 1954 to 1960, enabled students to learn free work at the furnace with the help of Waldsassen glassmakers. In 1973 Gangkofner received an honorary professorship, but it was only in 1983 – at the prompting of students – that an independent Chair for Glass and Light was created. Gangkofner's successor was Ludwig Gosewitz who holded the Chair until 2001. Then it was changed to the Chair of Ceramics and Glass.

With the students at the glass works of Alfredo Barbini, Murano

Photo: Private archiv

Montage eines Lüsters, Aloys Gangkofner und sein Sohn Matthias Gangkofner,
auf den Schultern Henriette Haniel von Haimhausen

Foto: Privatarchiv

Field trip

Photo: Private archive



freelance artist
Former director of the State Technical College for the Glass Industry in Zwiesel
Student at the Academy if Fine Arts in Munich, 1954-1960

- - -Gangkofner was certainly a good teacher, but in a way uniquely appropriate to him, which we students especially valued. He did not teach with his index finger, but rather through tips and suggestions, even by letting us participate in his own work and working together and discussing that work with us. Despite his frequently fiery temperament, he was extremely thoughtful and measured in guiding his students and avoided any imposition of his will.

From the outside this might seem like “laissez-faire” or lack of interest. But we students, who experienced his attention and his interest in our work, could not easily think such things. We valued the great latitude he gave us and the fact that he never expected “Gangkofner designs” from us. But there was one thing for which he could not hide his aversion: he did not like sloppy work, whether in terms of drawing or execution. This was understandable, he had, after all, been trained in Zwiesel’s Technical College for Glass under Professor Bruno Mauder. In this respect as well, he was a natural role model for us.

More than anything I remember the trips that he treated us to in his noble generosity. Not that we intentionally took advantage of this generosity, but we enjoyed it greatly: we could not have afforded much of it otherwise. It could happen for example, that one afternoon he would enter class and ask “Who’s coming to the show in Milan tomorrow?” (He was to receive a prize there.) “Please be on time tomorrow morning and don’t forget your pass-port.” Or another time: “None of you know about antique glass. There’s an exhibition at the moment in Zurich, ‘Glass through Four Millennia,’ it would be good for you to inform yourselves, and please don’t forget a sketchbook and a few colored pencils.” We enthusiastically accompanied him, of course with empty wallets. He took us with him to the Bavarian Forest, his actual home. We visited the glassworks and the Zwiesel Technical College for Glass, went hiking with him—to Rachel, Lusen, and Martinsklause. He arranged for us to stay in the sculptor Theuerjahr’s garden house.

And finally Waldsassen. It was the time when Gangkofner produced his imaginative, colored glass vessels during weekends with the glassmakers at Lamberts’ antique glassworks. It was like a festival when we students got to help unpack his latest creations on Monday morning. At those time we truly admired him greatly. And then finally, in the week of carnival, he took us with him. Unforgettable days, celebrating carnival at night, but then getting up to be at the glassworks at five in the morning and being able to experience how these beautiful glass objects were created at the furnace. This was all enormously impressive and helped to shape our futures. These were very rich and wonderful years, and I think back on them with gratitude.

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freelance artist

Student and Assistant with Aloys F. Gangkofner, 1962–1982

- - -My time at the art academy in Munich under and with Aloys Gangkofner began in 1962, when I came to the academy as a student to study “glass design.” There, Aloys Gangkofner taught the class Glass Design, which was then part of the department of Interior Architecture under Professor Hillerbrand. At the time there were only very few students who had “signed up” for glass. We quickly had to learn to rethink what we already knew, since studying at the academy was completely different than studying at the technical colleges for glass, where most of us had come from. At the academy, it was a matter of trying out independent possibilities in working and designing glass and, in part, moving away from glass as a functional object. As an advisor, Aloys Gangkofner was able to give us many stimuli in our attempts to create from a glass vessel or glass body an object worthy of the label “art.” Gangkofner’s popular excursions into Lamberts’ antique glassworks in Waldsassen were also highly interesting and beneficial to us.

As his students we had the privilege of being able to help in the design and execution of his freelance works. This inclusion in his work was beneficial to our own development in glass design. He opened up new perspectives for us in dealing with glass and using it effectively as a material.

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freelance artist

Lecturer in Design at the State Technical College for the Glass Industry in Zwiesel
Student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, 1973–1978

- - -My year of studies in Professor Gangkofner’s department “Glass and Light” was of decisive importance for me, in many respects. What occurs to me first is the tolerance and generosity that I experienced there. Professor Gangkofner shared his sensitivity and cheerfulness with us on countless trips together and studio parties. I remember a working trip of several days in the luxurious Hilton Hotel in Basel to mount a wall of light, when, upon our departure, he exclaimed in his Bavarian dialect: “Actually we’ve earned ourselves something decent to eat, let’s go to Alsace!” In Room 160 we could feel safe. Glass was respected, in stark contrast to the internal reserve about everything connected to applied materials. We could confront themes that allowed for sculptural expression in the material of glass, in order to find the means to our own formal expression. Professor Gangkofner had a great deal of patience with us, deeper insights were often arrived at during early evening drinks at the Hahnhof on Tengstraße…! His artistic orientation was non-dogmatic, he considered drawing to be the key to visual sensibility, but glass-light-space relations were central. Everything had to be sound, not defined merely in terms of material or artisanal perfection. He spoke seldom of art, more of the basic attitude that our work should credibly reflect.

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art teacher

Student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, 1969–1973

- - -Gangkofner was expert at capturing the various forms of vessels on paper; the course of any line was perfect, whether curving to the left or right, in no time a balanced, tension-filled new form had developed. During the phases of most intense work on his commissions, we could share in just how seriously and precisely and in just how much detail he would develop an idea from its conception through the process of drawing and finally to its completion. The mental effort was just as tangible as the joy of a work successfully completed.

He knew very well how to transfer his own enthusiasm onto others: We could experience this on the study trips to Italy, in which an atmosphere of study and one of vacation closely coexisted. Not to be forgotten is his joy in the pleasurable experiences of life. Gangkofner had an unerring sense for cultural and culinary particularities, with which he would always show us students things that were typical and interesting far away from the beaten path of most tourist establishments. On these trips, I got to know people and places whom I still visit.

His impulsive manner sometimes inspired harsh criticism, which, however, after a while made way for a certain “reconciliation” and could end in a humorous Bavarian remark. These are my personal memories. Certainly everyone saw Gangkofner differently. But despite all the different ways people saw him and what they felt, what surely remains with all the students who got to know him better is: He was a good and strict teacher, one of the few professors to whom we are greatly indebted.

master-class student of Professor Gangkofner

Student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, 1977–1982

- - -I became acquainted with Professor Gangkofner at the academy in 1977. He was totally different than the other professors, and totally different from how one would imagine an art professor to be. Always dressed correctly, to all external appearances not the slightest bit Bohemian, he virtually loathed “academic-intellectual chatter,” he was someone who could not be fit into any clichés. He could be absolutely enthusiastic and admiring about artistic works that he liked, but he could be just as devastating in his criticism of works that, in his opinion, were simply “rubbish.” For a young student such as myself it was not easy to meet his demands, but—seen in retrospect—artistically it was a good schooling.

The class Glass and Light had two large rooms in the old academy building: one was the glass workshop in the basement, equipped with all the machines needed for cold work, and the other was the studio with the working spaces of the students on the first floor, adjoining this was the professor’s office. This office was the “sanctuary,” which one could enter only after being invited for a glass of wine or when there was something important to discuss.

As far as his activities as an art teacher, I especially remember one very impressive occasion: I was working on a glass object and felt that something about its form just wasn’t right. Professor Gangkofner came into the workshop to take a look at my work. After a brief glance at my unfinished sculpture, he wordlessly took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, loosened his tie, and took the piece from my hand. With swift, sure movements on the grinder he corrected the form with which I had been experimenting for so long. It was just the line I had been seeking.

The atmosphere of our class Glass and Light was very human, very personal, we were “his” students, and with his students Professor Gangkofner took excursions to Italy, spent weekends in a hut the mountains, ski trips to South Tyrol or working days in the glassworks in the Bavarian Forest. The days were just about filled with tours, drawing, or working at the furnace, the evenings merry with wine and often song. “Springt der Hirsch übern Bach…” (The Deer Leaps over the Stream) was his favorite song—upon his departure his students gave him a life-sized deer, made of plaster.

freelance artist

Student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, 1977–1982

- - -At first the overfilled portfolio was not used as one had imagined, when a prospective student met Professor Gangkofner for an initial interview. “Come in,” “Take a seat,” “Where do you come from?” “What do your parents do?” were the kind of welcome he extended. Whatever one might have imagined about the art academy, the program of studies, and the professors, Aloys Gangkofner was surprisingly different. Credibly permitting human contact, maintaining style, dignity, and composure when others would “see red,” ready to fight when convinced of the quality of a work or student. “He/she is good” he would simply state in his Bavarian dialect. A short sentence would fittingly describe even complex connections or contexts.

His inventiveness was inexhaustible when it was a matter of opening the way for narrow mindedness. He was always there and always responsive. The students who worked in glass painting became familiar with the problems of painting per se, those who planned sculptural work with glass first became sculptors.

Several of his suggestions lastingly inspired my work and even today reverberate in many classroom lessons. There was no listener more interested and respectful when discussing the results of one’s own work and research. We were able to learn early on about professional practice from him, by accompanying him to installations of his work. He supported us as much he could, when the dimensions and realization of our intentions required additional professorial presence at offices, companies, or agencies that granted official approval. This was the case, for example, as my fellow-student Natalie Fuchs and I sought to realize our contribution to the 175th anniversary of Munich’s art academy. Together we designed a laser beam sign on the themes of “light and space” within the metropolitan area of Munich in collaboration with city authorities and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching.

Laser installation, 175th anniversary celebration, Academie of Fine Arts, Munich, 1985

Photo: Klaus Fischhold / Karlheinz Egginger


Student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, 1978–1984

Take various sorts of glass, for example Gruyere, Emmentaler, Appenzeller, a dry white wine, some Kirschwasser, salt, pepper, a bit of nutmeg, and white bread in cubes. Add a glassworks in the mountains in the snow with all the necessary furnishings – melting pot, pots for cool liquids and a handful of students. After successful preparation and melting of the materials, Master Aloys Gangkofner now celebrates the taking of the parison onto the forked pipe at the open pot, the wrapping of the thread (photo) and the crowning overlay of Kirschwasser. This practical lecture on glassmaking with materials similar in nature was greeted by the specialist public with wild applause, with a “sitting ovation.” Particularly since that which they had learned from the master they could now attempt to practice themselves with the appropriate tools.