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Stephanie Rosenthal announces her vision and plans for Gropius Bau
Stephanie Rosenthal, Gropius Bau, Director. Photo: Mathias Vlzke.

BERLIN.- As new director of Gropius Bau, Stephanie Rosenthal will reimagine the role of this Berlin landmark in light of the building’s history as a place of vital artistic creation at the heart of cultural exchange. ‘The Gropius Bau stands at the border that once divided Europe, the physical embodiment of differing ideologies, and in our own time this symbolic position takes on a new resonance’, Rosenthal says. ‘My aim is to explore the building’s unique history and location, creating a new space to inspire local and international visitors using innovative exhibition formats’.

Over the coming months a series of architectural interventions under the supervision of Studio Miessen and Andreas Lechthaler will make the building more light-filled and welcoming, expanding the beautiful atrium to become a freely accessible space open to the public with a new restaurant and a redesigned Walther König bookstore, while a new day-ticket scheme will make it possible to explore all the building’s shows and visual perspectives in a single visit starting next year.

The DNA of the Gropius Bau
The DNA of the Gropius Bau unfolds along two programme lines that cover both contemporary and archaeological positions. A central part of Rosenthal’s vision, ‘Walking in the Artist’s Mind’, will place artists at the heart of the institution: the history of the building, which is inextricably linked to the history of Germany, will provide a frame and starting point for their thinking and creative processes. At the same time, the building’s heritage as an original arts and crafts museum with studios and workshops will be revived via an in-house artist programme, encouraging artists to break out of existing institutional formats.

Next month sees the opening of a major contemporary show: Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta will run from 20 April to 22 July 2018. Ana Mendieta's life and artistic work crosses many borders: the daughter of a politically-engaged family in Cuba, she was sent to the United States at a young age in the wake of the revolution, and is now considered one of the outstanding artists of post-war history. Informed by her own biography and particularly relevant when set against the backdrop of current migration patterns, her work conveys a sense of the individual body searching for a place in nature and society, an ongoing quest for roots and the sense of belonging. The exhibition will make her film work accessible on a large scale for the first time. Ideas that run through her work concerning the body, land and borders will set the tone for themes that will be explored from different perspectives over the coming years at the Gropius Bau.

In the autumn, Korean artist Lee Bul’s exhibition Crash will be her first solo show in Germany. Given its turbulent history, the Gropius Bau is the inspiration and ‘stage’ for Lee Bul’s sculptures, paintings, drawings and expansive installations that deal with the collision of architectural, utopian and personal visions. Embedded in the history of the building, this presentation of her works draws on diverse influences straddling the boundaries between German and Korean history: national division, collective trauma and the way psychic topographies are reflected in architectural structures. Lee Bul’s work exposes the interrelationships between different disciplines, exploring historical and political discourse, the challenges of technological progress, as well as ideals of human and social perfection and their implicit potential for failure. The comprehensive retrospective will be on view from 29 September 2018 to 13 January 2019 and includes a series of new works that Lee Bul designed specifically for the Gropius Bau.

The new Gropius Bau vision will stay true to the historical tradition that saw the building housing the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte and later the Völkerkundemuseum, today known as the Ethnological Museum, for instance via a co-operation with the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. The first example will be the exhibition Restless Times. Archaeology in Germany. Presented in parallel to Lee Bul’s project, the show reveals a powerful network of cultural interaction existing in Europe from earliest times to the recent past. The show demonstrates strong thematic affinities with the concerns of contemporary artists such as Lee Bul: it investigates ideas such as migration, integration, iconoclasm and technical and intellectual knowledge-transfer, giving the archaeological finds relevance for visitors today.

The new programme In House: Artist in Residence began earlier this year when Wu Tsang moved into the studio at Gropius Bau. Wu Tsang’s work explores various states of connectedness and ‘in-between‘-ness within society and with regard to personal identity. These uncertain relationships are usually seen as collaborations or merging disciplines such as performance, film, sculpture and installation. Wu Tsang breaks with the boundaries of documentation and fiction in order to reflect, reformulate and destabilise the meanings associated with traditional forms of image creation.

Berliner Festspiele’s programme series Immersion produces an exhibition by Philippe Parreno conceived as a Gesamtkunstwerk (25 May–5 August 2018), and under the title Welt ohne Auen, Tino Sehgal and Thomas Oberender will bring together artistic positions on immersive spaces since the 1960s (8 June–5 August 2018). Within the immersive sound and 360 visual exhibition ISM Hexadome, organised by the Institute for Sound & Music in collaboration with ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Pfadfinderei, IRCAM and Norient, each work opens a door into a world crafted in sonic and visual detail, demonstrating the power of spatialisation for sound (29 March–22 April 2018). The guest exhibition Gurlitt: Status Report, organised by the Bundeskunsthalle and Kunstmuseum Bern, addresses the provenance of 250 works that have been hidden from public view for decades (14 September 2018–7 January 2019), while the special exhibition Restless Times. Archaeology in Germany, organised by the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, in cooperation with the Association of Federal State Archaeologists, demonstrates that communication and interconnectedness beyond regional borders has fundamentally influenced various facets of life since prehistory (21 September 2018–6 January 2019).

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