Exterior facade of the bikiniARTMuseum. In front of the entrance there is a statue of a woman in bikini

The World’s First Bikini Museum opens in Bad Rappenau

Just a Little Something

On 5th July 2020, the BikiniARTMuseum (BAM) opened in Baden-Wuerttemberg; the first exhibition centre worldwide dedicated exclusively to swimwear.

As the name suggests, the central theme is women’s fashion – or at least fashion that has traditionally been designed for women. The museum is located in the little town of Bad Rappenau, next door to Heilbronn, where the initiator of the museum, Alexander Ruscheinsky, owns a conveniently situated parcel of land next to the A6 motorway, which connects Frankfurt with Stuttgart.

The museum seeks to meet a variety of challenges. At its heart is an historical exhibition of swimwear from the late 19th century to the present. Around 1.200 artifacts, spanning 300 years of history from different countries and cultures, afford visitors an in-depth overview of the topic.

Exhibition room in the Bikini Museum in Bad Rappenau

More skin thanks to the Bikini

This historical story begins at around 1870, with the chaste swimsuits used during the very beginnings of public bathing. The year 1946 also heralded a milestone, when the French engineer, Louis Réard, first introduced his skimpy, two-piece design, upon which most modern bikinis are now based. Réard’s invention caused a worldwide scandal, as did its name.

Bikini Atoll was the location of a series of atom bomb tests that had taken place just days before Réard launched his new fashion. But the immediate uproar soon settled into acceptance and popularity. However, the bikini has become normal beachwear in most parts of the world – and an exposed navel is no longer cause for moral outrage.

Display window in museum with bikinis from different eras

The museum’s most prized possessions are 12 original bikinis from Réard; a rarity in itself. In other words only 16 such originals exist worldwide. Luxury bikinis from brands such as Dior and Chanel are on show, as well as pieces from traditional German clothing companies, including Naturana and Triumph.

The Bikini also inspires art

Other exhibits of special interest include thematic artworks, created exclusively for the museum, from well-known German personalities, including comedian, Otto Waalkes, and rock icon, Udo Lindenberg. International artists, such as graffiti virtuoso, Jace, from Réunion, Sergi Cadenas from Spain as well as the New York-based illustrator and cartoonist, Saranovela, also all have works on display.

Perhaps a more compelling element of the museum is how it addresses a difficult question… While the bikini has been used to support the cause of female emancipation and moved womens’ fashion away from restricting corsets and heavy dresses, it also opened up the female body to the public gaze. This has led to the development of notions of “the perfect body”, “the bikini figure” and other less-welcome effects. In its discussion of these issues, the museum takes a strongly feminist approach; a moral standard that the curators are clearly happy to be measured by. 

Woman walks through BikiniARTMuseum and looks at the information board

There’s a lot to see and do in the Bikini Museum

As far as marketing is concerned, the museum currently relies on a tried-and-tested formula. On the roof of the building, a 10-metre-high figure courts the attention of anyone willing to look. The figure is female and is wearing a bikini. But regardless of that, the BAM museum is another argument for a trip to Baden-Wuerttemberg. Not far from here, in Sinsheim, is the stadium of the Bundesliga football team, TSG Hoffenheim. Perhaps the perfect combination for a fun family day out?

Adress: Buchäckerring 42, 74906 Bad Rappenau
Tel. +49 7066 91 73 700
Open daily, 10am–8pm. Entry fee: 10,50 /8,00 Euro