The group exhibition The History Show marks the start of the 200-year jubilee of the Kunstverein in Hamburg and is based on the scientific review of its multifaceted history. The research and exhibition project was realized in cooperation with the Department of Art History at Unversität Hamburg headed by Prof. Dr. Uwe Fleckner. The focus of the investigation was on the history of its foundation and the exhibitions it held from 1817 until today. Based on this research, thematic focuses were identified that have characterized the work of the Kunstverein over the past two hundred years. Categories of communicating art and moments that shaped the Kunstverein’s history were ascertained in a historical review and simultaneously examined in regard to what they can offer for future activities. Each of the thematic focuses were taken up by artists who are in many cases closely associated with Hamburg and whose works stand for a reflective discourse on historical phenomena. They were invited to respond to the researched material, to add existing works or also produce new ones, with the aim of critically dealing with its history, commenting on it, questioning it, and even turning it upside down.
For the spatial structuring, we invited Olaf Nicolai who used the historical display drafts of Karl Schneider made for the building of the Kunstverein at the Neue Rabenstraße 24 (1930-33) to create a varied, ornamental, and also institution-critical exhibition architecture spanning the space as a reflective object on which the other contributions can unfold.
In the chapter Citizens & Bourgeoisie, Werner Büttner responds with a series that humorously addresses the origin of the Kunstverein in a bourgeois context by showing and commenting on heads of the Kunstverein from the past 200 years under the motto Erst frisst die Zeit den Menschen und dann die Erinnerung an ihn (First time devours the person and then the memory of him).
Alluding to Armando, who in 1989 participated in the group show Landschaftsbilder at the Kunstverein, Beate Gütschow engages with the concept of homeland and pays tribute to the classical forms of depicting the landscape.
Marjetica Potrč and her class respond to the chapter Religion and Sentiment by making reference to the Biennale des Friedens in 1985. In the manifesto-like piece Politics and Love, they declare the love of one’s counterpart as the foundation of a political concept.
In the chapter Pictorial Inventions – Formal Inventions, Franz Erhard Walther deals with the development of 15 artists—from Philipp Otto Runge to Andy Warhol—who played a crucial role in the history of the Kunstverein.
For the chapter Identities, the artists’ collective 3 Hamburger Frauen produced a metaphorically charged wall painting that takes up the stations of the Kunstverein and sheds light on important passages of its history in a collage-like manner, with the female artists themselves standing at the center.
Under the title Dignified – Defamed – Destroyed, Uwe Fleckner addresses the impact of National Socialism on the Kunstverein. Karl Schneider’s modernist exhibition building of the Kunstverein that from 1930-33 possessed an avant-gardist function as a site for conveying contemporary art was put up for compulsory sale in 1937, transferred to the ownership of the state, and ultimately destroyed by a bomb raid in 1943.
Daniel Knorr’s work Reconstruction stands in the context of the chapter Rehabilitation of Modernism and reflects the phase of reconstruction after 1945 by taking up the handling of resources in the period of post-war industrialization and its varied global, societal, political, and ecological effects.
The politicization of the West German art scene also left its mark on the Kunstverein. In his complex installation, Dani Gal returns to its origins by staging a fictive encounter between Simon Wiesenthal and Albert Speer to discuss the manifold possibilities of reading and interpreting history.
Katrin Mayer deals with the chapter GDR Art in the FRG based on the exhibition Zeitvergleich presented at the Kunstverein in 1982/83. She reexamines this period by focusing on GDR artists such as Cornelia Schleime.
In the chapter Institutional Critique, Christian Philipp Müller and Burk Koller respond to an important aspect of recent art history. Müller takes as a starting point an installation he created for the Kunstmeile Hamburg in the 1990s. In the new work, a table by Rirkrit Tiravanija, a barter deal, and a well-known Hamburg art patron play a decisive role. Burk Koller in turn has a banner with an Open Call from Franz Kafka’s Amerika circle over the Kunstverein from an airplane.
Curated by Bettina Steinbrügge and Corinna Koch.
Participants: Unversität Hamburg, Department Art History headed by Prof. Dr. Uwe Fleckner: Iris-R. Adler, Veronica Beck, Hanna Böge, Sophia Colditz, Jana Diermann, Benjamin Fellmann, Dorothee Glawe, Nina Lucia Groß, Sigrid Hermann, Anne Simone Krüger, Johanna Lieb, Ceren Mağden, Vivian Michalski, Hana Michlova, Jennifer Ohnmacht, Fabian Röderer, Katharina Schmitteckert, Johanna Schumalis, Ifee Tack, Ksenia Weber, Hannah Weber-Heidenfels, Julius Wenger, Rosa Windt, Veronika Zöller
University of Fine Arts of Hamburg, class of Marjetica Potrč: MacKenzie Boomer, Xin Cheng, Lisa Eggert, Lea Kirstein, Robert Köpke, William Schwartz, Kathrin Sohlbach, Mana Stahl, Julia Wycisk / Finn Brüggemann, Nuriye Tohermes from Das Archipel
A reader will be published in conjunction with the exhibition.
With the kind support of the Ministry of Culture of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, the Hamburger Sparkasse, the Körber-Stiftung and the Department of Art History, Universität Hamburg.