The new Brandhorst Museum is a signal in the urban and institutional matrix of Munich. This svelte, immaculately-assembled object gathers together many pertinent themes in contemporary architectural and museological thinking. Yet one’s first impression of the building designed by Matthias Sauerbruch and Louisa Hutton is, simply, to register its presence as a spirited, multicolored neighbor to neo-Classical museums and bourgeois apartment houses. “Impression” may in fact describe the exterior essence, the way it communicates through color and its comprehensibility as a tectonic phenomenon. “Impression” also of course recalls early Modernist paintings: the agency of color, the deconstruction of light, and the integration of modern life. The Brandhorst Museum is a box. If mention of such a fundamental spatial container triggers association with the writings of Robert Venturi, with that American’s polemics regarding the significance of surface, one might consider the Brandhorst as an exquisite box, as a literal treasure chest. Yet the Brandhorst’s boxiness also results from the particularity of its site. It is the latest and perhaps the final installment in a glorious set-piece, the family of museums instigated by Leo von Klenze’s Alte Pinakothek in the early nineteenth century, poetically reconstituted by Hans Döllgast after World War II, and extended in recent years by the adjacent Pinakothek der Moderne. As such, Sauerbruch Hutton’s Brandhorst Museum is not merely an object; it is a fragment in this compound of museums and museum buildings. The freestanding building rises two tall stories above an extensive basement. As it must accommodate the practical needs of an independent museum (storage, service rooms, loading bays), much of the exterior is blank. Or, we might say, opaque. This is also due to the remarkable system of interior illumination. Lower galleries draw light from a strip of clerestory window; upper galleries are illuminated directly through a filigreed ceiling. The external surface is then treated as a fabricated color field - already something of a Sauerbruch Hutton specialty - with a myriad ceramic bars, held forward of an envelope of perforated metal, that shift in hue or spectrum one to the next. There are in toto 23 different glazes and three major groupings that help suggest a tripartite massing for the building. Like Op Art sculpture, the Brandhorst is animated by human movement. Entry is from the farthest corner, into a genial café and bookstore and thence to a linear, side-lit volume that houses an open staircase connecting galleries in the expansive basement, clerestory-lit chambers at ground level, and the splendid exhibition spaces on the top floor. The walls are white, the floors oak. The comparative intimacy of the lower galleries, with their meandering path, dissipates above where the broad exhibition halls reach up to ceilings of translucent fabric. A few flush “picture windows” allow for re-orientation back to the city and museum precinct. The Brandhorst is not orthogonal but somewhat hammer-headed, cranking back from the street corner. This is no affectation. Above the entry, the slightly swollen upper gallery is tailored precisely to a dozen large canvases by the contemporary American master, Cy Twombly. There one is left almost entirely alone with art. The architecture almost disappears, the exterior ceramics almost forgotten in the presence of art.