Portikus is an exhibition hall for contemporary art in Frankfurt am Main, originally founded in 1987 through the initiation of Kasper König, one of the most influential living curators of contemporary art. Its name derives from the surviving portico of the Stadtbibliothek (public library) from 1825 that was destroyed during World War II. In 1987, the vestige of this classical building once again fulfilled its architectural function as a facade when the Frankfurt-based architects Marie-Theres Deutsch and Klaus Dreißigacker built a simple white cube out of shipping containers. Portikus presents the work of internationally renowned artists, along with exhibiting younger, emerging artists. Almost always, art work is commissioned for the gallery space.
The city government decided to rebuild the destroyed library, however, awarding the contract to local architect Christoph Mäckler. In 2003, therefore, after 16 years and more than 100 exhibitions, Portikus moved into the ground floor of the historical building known as the Leinwandhaus. This temporary location was designed with the artist Tobias Rehberger (born 1964). Rehberger developed a spatial concept that, through the introduction of various modular elements such as platforms and boxes, allowed the integration of the gallery, office, reading area, and storage spaces into a large and rustic hall. In collaboration with the Zumtobel Staff, the artist Olafur Eliasson (born 1967) designed the lighting of the exhibition space. Until the beginning of 2006, the exhibition program operated in this space under the name “Portikus im Leinwandhaus”.
In 2006, Portikus moved to a new space, designed as well by Christoph Mäckler. The new building is located on a small island in the river Main at the very center of the city, with direct access only from the Alte Brücke, or Old Bridge, Frankfurt's oldest bridge.
The relationship of Portikus to the city is defined by its association with the Städelschule, Academy of Fine Arts; this link allows an intense exchange between the exhibiting artists and the students of the art academy.
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