Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art

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The Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art (KW) is a contemporary art institution located at Auguststrasse 69 in the Mitte district of Berlin. The director is Gabriele Horn.

Unlike many international contemporary art institutions, the KW does not have a permanent collection. Its philosophy is that without a permanent collection, it can be more readily responsive to artistic innovation and to creative programming.[1] KW was founded in the early 1990s by a group of Berlin-based artists and students in an old margarine factory.[2] After renovations in fall 1999, it re-opened with enhanced galleries. The building has five floors and a large courtyard for outdoor projects. The American artist Dan Graham designed its glass café, Cafe Bravo.

KW works with other avant garde venues, such as MoMA PS1 in New York, the Venice Biennale, and Documenta X. The curator of KW also serves as a curatorial advisor to MoMA PS1.


Notable artists and groups who have showed at KW include: Wolfgang Breuer,[3] the musician Maya Kishi-Anderson[3] Annette Kelm,[3] MISS READ International publishers and artist/writers[4] and Ceal Floyer.[5] The American avant-garde artist Barbara Rosenthal performed “Existential Interaction” in its doorway as guerilla theater during the New Berlin Festival in June 2008.[6] 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.[7]

Controversy on Regarding Terror: The RAF Exhibition[edit]

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,[8]

Berlin Biennale[edit]

Funded by the 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.[1] 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.[9] The Biennale is held at various locations in the city, which in the past have included the Neue Nationalgalerie.

Artist Residency Programme[edit]

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),[10] Susan Philipsz (2001),[11] 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 ResnaisLast Year at Marienbad.)[12]


  1. ^ a b [1] retrieved November 20, 2009.
  2. ^ [2] retrieved November 20, 2009
  3. ^ a b c [3] retrieved November 20, 2009
  4. ^ [4] retrieved November 20, 2009
  5. ^ [5] retrieved November 20, 2009
  6. ^ Carswell, Clare. “Existential Interaction” NY Arts magazine, November - December 2008 [6] retrieved November 20, 2009.
  7. ^ "Richard Serra. Thinking on Your Feet", July 06 - September 07, 2008 KW Institute for Contemporary Arts, Berlin.
  8. ^ Kirsten Grieshaber (February 1, 2005), Glorifying terrorism in Berlin? New York Times.
  9. ^ Official Site of the Berlin Biennale
  10. ^ Suzy Menkes (June 24, 2003), Hedi Slimane: 'Ich bin ein Berliner' New York Times.
  11. ^ Gemma Halsey (October 13, 2010), An Artist Whose Work 'Sounds Like Stars' New York Times.
  12. ^ Gisela Williams (August 24, 2009), A Hotel Room With Only One Occupant: The Artist InTransit Blog, New York Times.

Coordinates: 52°31′37.2″N 13°23′41.3″E / 52.527000°N 13.394806°E / 52.527000; 13.394806