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Transient Space
Ten Years Deutsche Guggenheim

As a joint venture between the Deutsche Bank and Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, the Deutsche Guggenheim has set new standards for the future with commissioned works created especially for Berlin by celebrated artists such as Gerhard Richter, Lawrence Weiner, and Hanne Darboven in a space that is radically transformed from exhibition to exhibition. Silke Hohmann looks back on the vivid history of this unique institution.

Hanne Darboven, Hommage à Picasso, 2006,
Installation Shot
Photo © Mathias Schormann,
© Deutsche Guggenheim

Ten years aren’t much in art. At least when measured in terms of the artistic developments that have occurred since the advent of modernism. If you were to look at it differently and evaluate the past ten years according to the major exhibitions that have taken place, then you could also see it this way: ten years, that’s five Biennials in Venice, two Documenta exhibitions in Kassel, ten fairs in Basel, and one Skulptur Projekte Münster. From 1997 to the present, contemporary art has steadily moved into the larger public eye. Proof of this are the blockbuster exhibitions such as the large Saatchi show Sensation from 1997, which brought many people into contact with contemporary art for the first time, as well as the many important institutions in Germany that appeared on the contemporary art map around the beginning of the new millennium. Another example is German painting, which suddenly played such a major role in the past few years: one only has to think of the New Leipzig School that ushered in the boom of young figurative painting.

Neo Rauch, Uhrenvergleich, 2001,
© VG Bild Kunst, Bonn, 2007,
Courtesy Galerie EIGEN+ART Leipzig/Berlin,
David Zwirner, New York,
Photo Uwe Walter

An important part of the success story of this young painting movement was Neo Rauch’s first solo museum show with works from the Deutsche Bank Collection, which took place at the Deutsche Guggenheim in 2001. At the time, only very few people foresaw the incredible ascension Rauch’s career was soon to undergo. To this day, Rauch’s gallery Eigen+Art regards this show at the Deutsche Guggenheim as the turning point in his career. And indeed, it’s a perfect example for what the institution can offer: more than mere extensions of the public museum establishment, it can also provide crucial impulses for the international art scene.

Douglas Gordon's The VANITY of Allegory, 2005
Installation View,
Photo: Mathias Schormann,
© Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin

Today, the Deutsche Guggenheim is an integral part of the Berlin art scene and easily measures up to the highly successful, considerably larger Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt in terms of its numbers of visitors. Yet when it opened its doors ten years ago, it didn’t have the best prerequisites for becoming accepted among the local audience. This was also clear to the project’s initiators: "Berlin is exceptionally well furnished culturally, particularly regarding its museums," as Friedhelm Hütte, Director of Deutsche Bank Art, has said. And in terms of contemporary art, the Berlin gallery scene is one of the liveliest in the world. But the competition for attention that already prevailed in the aspiring art metropolis Berlin of the late ’90s proved to be the ideal climate for a unique joint venture between Deutsche Bank and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation – a form of cooperation that was completely new in Germany at the time.

Gerhard Richter: ACHT GRAU, 2002, Installation View,
Photo: Mathias Schorman,
© Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin

The exhibition program’s concept was also innovative: to realize a commissioned work each year that addresses the uniqueness of the place, including site-specific works and projects that reflect European and American movements in contemporary art. Established artists such as Lawrence Weiner and Gerhard Richter were inspired by this model to make very different site-specific works. While Weiner’s conceptual work from 2000, NACH ALLES / AFTER ALL, was based on the work of Alexander von Humboldt, Gerhard Richter’s Eight Grey from 2002 was made in direct response to the space. His gray plates mounted directly onto the wall were ambiguous objects on the borderline between painting, sculpture, and architecture. At the artist’s request, the translucent glass of the windows opening onto the boulevard Unter den Linden was replaced with transparent panes. Thus, the grey enamel glass surfaces of Richter’s installation not only reflected the interior of the space together with its visitors, but also included the outside world as well.

James Rosenquist, The Swimmer in the Econo-mist, 1998,
Installation View, Photo: Mathias Schormann,
© Deutsche Guggenheim

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