Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art
The KW Institute for Contemporary Art (Kunst-Werke) is a contemporary art institution located at Auguststrasse 69 in the Mitte district of Berlin. The director is Gabriele Horn. Since July 1, 2016, the director has been Krist Gruijthuijsen.
Unlike many international contemporary art institutions, KW does not have a permanent collection but understands itself "as a place for the production and presentation of contemporary art". Its philosophy is that without a permanent collection, it can be more readily responsive to artistic innovation and to creative programming. It is a center for the introduction of recent developments in national and international contemporary culture, and for further development, working together with artists and institutions, and commissioning new work.
KW was founded in the early 1990s by Klaus Biesenbach and a group of young art enthusiasts in a former margarine factory in Berlin-Mitte. The building complex in Berlin's center has five floors and a large courtyard for outdoor projects. It includes exhibition halls, function rooms, offices, and a café, alongside apartments and studios, and provides a space for encounters and exchanges. After renovations in fall 1999, it re-opened with enhanced galleries. The American artist Dan Graham designed its glass café, Cafe Bravo, for the 1st Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art.
Notable artists and groups who have showed at KW include: Ryan Trecartin, Kader Attia, Wolfgang Breuer, the musician Maya Kishi-Anderson Annette Kelm, MISS READ International publishers and artist/writers, and Ceal Floyer. The American avant-garde artist Barbara Rosenthal performed “Existential Interaction” in its doorway as guerilla theater during the New Berlin Festival in June 2008. In 2008, the KW mounted Richard Serra. Thinking on Your Feet for the first time, the first show to only focus on the artist’s filmic work.
Controversy on Regarding Terror: The RAF Exhibition
In 2005, an exhibition on the public perception of the terrorist group Red Army Faction (RAF), curated by Ellen Blumenstein, Felix Ensslin, and Klaus Biesenbach, formed in and through the media caused a major controversy in Germany. Relatives of the terrorists' victims laid out their objections in an open letter to German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. The exhibition was delayed when the political pressure led Biesenbach to withdraw the museum's application for €100,000 ($133,000) worth of state funding,
Funded by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation), KW held the first Berlin Biennale in 1998 to help the city of Berlin become recognized as a contemporary art capital. Klaus Biesenbach took the artistic helm of the first Berlin Biennale in cooperation with Nancy Spector and Hans Ulrich Obrist. For the second Berlin Biennale in 2001, the baton was passed to Saskia Bos, who was in turn followed by Ute Meta Bauer for the 2004 exhibition. The 4th Berlin Biennale in 2006 was curated by Maurizio Cattelan, Massimiliano Gioni, and Ali Subotnick. Adam Szymczyk was chosen for the 5th Berlin Biennale in 2008 and then appointed Elena Filipovic as co-curator. The 6th Berlin Biennale in 2010 was curated by Kathrin Rhomberg. Artur Żmijewski curated the 7th Berlin Biennale together with associate curators Voina and Joanna Warsza. Juan A. Gaitàn, curator of the 8th Berlin Biennale, invited Tarek Atoui, Catalina Lozano, Natasha Ginwala, Mariana Munguía, Olaf Nicolai, and Danh Vo as his Artistic Team. The 9th Berlin Biennale is curated by the New York collective DIS consisting of Lauren Boyle, Solomon Chase, David Toro, and Marco Roso.
The Berlin Biennale is held at various locations in the city, with KW as one of the venues for every edition.
Artist residency program
Inspired by the artist-in-residence program at MoMA PS1, six artist studios were created for artists’ residencies at KW in 1998. Former residents include Hedi Slimane (2000-2002), Susan Philipsz (2001), Susan Sontag, Christoph Schlingensief, Jonathan Meese, Tobias Rehberger, Milovan Destil Markovic, and Janet Cardiff. Between 2008 and 2009, KW maintained the so-called "Hotel Marienbad", an exhibition space that resembled a hotel suite with two rooms: a bedroom and a secret room concealed behind a floor-to-ceiling mirror. A rotating cast of artists “checked in” and lived in the suite while working on an art project inspired by the space. The first artist to move in was the Turner Prize winner Douglas Gordon, who named the space and created a neon Hotel Marienbad sign for the exterior facade. (The name was inspired by two classic films: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz and Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad.)
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