Exhibitions and Responsibilities of the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden
While it was originally conceived as an exhibition hall for the artist community of Baden, since the late 1950s, the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden has evolved into an institution of international renown. The history of the Staatliche Kunsthalle’s exhibition activity bears a strong stamp of the directors who served this institution – it reflects their personality, their thematic interests and their corresponding focus.
Under the guidance of Dietrich Mahlow (1957–1967), the Staatliche Kunsthalle became an important showcase for global culture. Exhibitions including “American Ceramics”(1960), “The Naïve Image of the World“(1961) “Text and Image” (1962/63), “Primitive Textile Workshops in Egypt“ (1963), as well as countless solo exhibits by artists from Hans Arp to Jean Tinguely, create an entirely new vision for this art institution.
Klaus Gallwitz (1967–1974) introduces Baden-Baden’s first block buster exhibitions: “Revolutionary Architecture” (1970), “Salvador Dali”(1971), “Hans Makart” (1972), “Russian Realists”(1972/73). On the occasion of the series, “14 x 14” (1968–1973), the Staatliche Kunsthalle makes itself available to the public for several weeks as an open studio. Some of the young artists who were involved at that time, and who were presented by the Kunsthalle in solo exhibits, would later come to enjoy global fame. These artists include Georg Baselitz, Gerhard Richter, Günter Uecker, Markus Lüpertz and Anselm Kiefer.
Hans Albert Peters (1974–1980) organized exhibits centered on Classical Modernists including “Juan Gris” (1974), “Aristide Maillol”(1978), “Robert Delaunay”(1976), “Richard Serra”(1979) and “René Magritte”(1976). A show entitled “Bembo to Guardi” (1975) put on display exquisite examples of 16th to 18th century Northern Italian painting that were on loan from the Brera Art Gallery of Milan.
Under Katharina Schmidt’s (1980–1985) stewardship, great interpreters of human existence are discovered: “Bruce Nauman”(1981), “Rebecca Horn” (1981), “Dany Karavan”(1982), “Jannis Kounellis”(1982), “Karel Appel” (1982), “Cy Twombly” (1984). Also not forgotten are the drawings by “Georges Seurat” (1984), Japanese brush paintings from the exhibition, “From the Flowing, Transient World” (1984) and Chinese paintings of the Ming and Qing Dynasties from the exhibit: “In the Shade of Tall Trees” (1985).
Jochen Poetter (1985–1997) documents the minimalist strategies with which architecture relates to various artistic productions. Gerhard Merz (1987), Donald Judd (1989), Dan Flavin (1989), Reiner Ruthenbeck (1993) and Richard Tuttle (1993) are featured. American artists such as Chuck Close (1994) and Alex Katz (1995) or Cindy Sherman (1997) are introduced to a German audience.
Margrit F. Brehm (1997–1999), who served as acting director, set a course with such shows as “Impressionism and Symbolism – Paintings from Poland at the turn of the century” (1997), “Highlights from the Haags Gemeente Museum”(1998), “Minimal-Maximal” (1999) and “… einerseits der Sterne wegen” (because of the stars, on the one hand) (1999). Solo exhibitions under her guidance were organized for “Erwin Gross” (1997), “John Armleder” (1998/1999) and “Dieter Krieg” (1999).
For Matthias Winzen (1999–2005), art serves as a means of perception in its own right. In trilogies including “Du sollst Dir ein Bild machen” (2001/02) und “Multiple Spaces: Soul – Park – Film”(2004/05), the Kunsthalle under his stewardship took on the profile of a research institute for issues dealing with the location of art in life. Overview exhibitions on “Thomas Ruff” (2001/02), “Georg Herold” (2004), “Marlene Dumas” (2005/06), “Thomas Schütte” (2006) and “Stephan Balkenhol” (2006) alternated with thematic insights into private collections.
As acting director of the Kunsthalle, Fritz Emslander (2005–2006) unearthed treasures of the history of photography from heretofore fairly unknown French collections: “Depth of Focus – Images of People“(2006). In “Ballerina in a Whirlpool”(2006), human cognition structures are examined on the basis of important installation artworks from the Hauser & Wirth collection. “Lost and Found”(2006/07) deals with contemporary Hungarian art and is followed by an exhibition displaying the paintings and installations of Dirk Skreber, a New York-based artist.
Karola Kraus (2006–2010) dedicates her exhibition program to conceptual art classics in a dialogue with artistic positions of the 1980s and 90s. The exhibit, “Who’s Afraid Of Red, Yellow and Blue” takes up the great tradition of this art institution by illuminating the beginnings of minimalist painting. In 2007, a much-noted retrospective is dedicated to the work of the French-Romanian artist André Cadere. The works of this artist, whose life was cut short, were also shown in Paris, Maastricht and Bucharest. With the exhibitions entitled “Nairy Baghramian” and “Stephen Prina” (2008), two positions, which put the topicality of conceptual art up for discussion, are presented in context-related works of art. The anniversary year 2008/2009 is marked by an exhibition focusing on the Russian Avant-garde. The exhibit, “Von der Fläche zum Raum. Malewitsch und die frühe Moderne” (From surface to space: Malevich and early Modernism), apart from presenting works that are in Russian and European possession, also encompasses installations by Rodchenko, El Lissitzky and Schwitters.
Johan Holten, who has been directing the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden since 1 April 2011, will draft the new course of the Kunsthalle and determine its programmatic orientation of the near future. At the center of the new program will be the question of how the public service mission of an art center can best be realized today. Those who, like Johan Holten, are convinced that art is not just tantamount to enjoyment but that it can also make an important contribution to the societal debate, must venture to redefine this contribution at the beginning of the 21st century. Johan Holten’s quest is shaped by his conviction “that art plays a decisive role in the formation and maintenance of a functioning civil society – both now and in the future“.
The exhibitions are generally composed of art works that are brought together from museums and private collections. The Kunsthalle’s particular architectural structure and the sequence of its rooms is always amenable to realizing temporary on-site installations and murals with the help of the Kunsthalle team. Concealed within the wall plaster are paintings by Palermo, Helmut Middendorf, Gerhard Merz, K. R. H. Sonderborg, Hamish Fulton, Corinne Wasmuht, Holger Bunk, Nic Hess, Paul Mac Carthy and Stephen Prina.
Among the other responsibilities of the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden is the organization of the Hans Thoma Staatspreis für Bildende Kunst des Landes Baden-Württemberg in Bernau im Schwarzwald, advising of the art commission of the Oberfinanzdirektion Karlsruhe / Freiburg in the area of art in the public arena and, since 2004, supervision of the Brenner´s Artist in Residence fellowship.
The art catalogues that go hand in hand with exhibitions at the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden have proven to be topical publications that are highly relevant for the current art discourse. In an appealing way, these catalogues provide art historical research and documentary material in connection with the individual exhibitions.
Since 1997, new visitor segments have been tapped through an interdisciplinary accompanying program that offers lectures on the arts and humanities, discussion rounds, readings, discussions with artists, film evening and concerts. These activities are carried out in collaboration with Volkshochschule Baden-Baden, church-based educational institutions, Baden-Baden Theater, Südwestrundfunk and local hotels and establishments with whom the Kunsthalle has shared a close partnership spanning the years.
Since 1999, the association of friends of the Kunsthalle, “Freunde der Staatlichen Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, e. V.”, has been dedicated to deepening the Kunsthalle’s networking efforts. In 2008, a KinderClub was established to promote art appreciation and understanding for children and adolescents. Senior citizens are invited to attend a “Kunst und Kaffee” event every second Wednesday of the month. This entails a specially guided tour and subsequent visit to the Café Kunsthalle for coffee and a chat
The Frieder Burda Museum, in a building designed by Richard Meier (who completed Herrmann Billing’s vision with an own interpretation for the 21st century) has been a neighbor to the Kunsthalle since 2004. The joint presence of public and private commitment for the arts at the Oos (river) only serves to heighten Baden-Baden’s reputation as an attractive location for contemporary culture.