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Kunsthalle Mannheim opens new museum building
Dr. Ulrike Lorenz poses inside the new Kunsthalle Mannheim. Photo: Kunsthalle Mannheim / Dietrich Bechtel.


MANNHEIM.- On Friday, June 1, 2018, the Kunsthalle Mannheim opened with its first special exhibition “Jeff Wall. Appearance” and a new presentation of its collections.

After the new building was handed over to the city of Mannheim in December 2017, the Kunsthalle team moved into the museum complex and set up 5,500 square meters of exhibition space. Across roughly 13,000 square meters of floor space, the Kunsthalle showcases its new concept of a “museum in motion” in a “city in the city.” Visitors will discover ten art cubes in the new building and the historical galleries of the art nouveau building, filled with well-known masterpieces and Mannheim-specific works, as well as permanent exhibitions on provenance research and the exhibiting history of the Kunsthalle. In addition, 1,000 square meters of space in the new building displays thirty works by Jeff Wall.

The new building was designed by gmp –von Gerkan, Marg and Partners. The international architecture firm based in Hamburg won the international competition in 2012 with its concept of a “city in the city.” Their design was the only one out of the 29 entries to make explicit reference to Mannheim and the chessboard-layout which marked it out as an ideal city in the Baroque period.

“After ten years of development work, we can now look forward to exciting exhibitions and a new museum experience. I would like to invite all citizens of Mannheim to see the new Kunsthalle for themselves, which the new building has once again endowed with the artistic, cultural, and political significance that it had at the beginning of the twentieth century,” explains Dr. Peter Kurz, mayor of the city of Mannheim.

An impressive level of involvement on the part of private individuals and the extensive support of the Kunsthalle Mannheim Foundation made this enormous and complex undertaking possible. The overall budget of around €68.3 million was not exceeded. €50 million were donated by Dr. h.c. Hans-Werner Hector, while €11.4 million came from the city of Mannheim and the rest was donated by private patrons and foundations to fund the innovative new museum building.

“It’s wonderful to see the art take ownership of the completed new building and be brought to its full splendor by the elegant, generous architecture,” enthuses Dr. Manfred Fuchs, chairman of the Kunsthalle Mannheim Foundation. “The historic art nouveau building and the modern new building will be a museum for all citizens, whose support we will also be grateful for as we go forward.” Fuchs oversaw the founding of a Benefactors’ Circle in 2017, which will support the museum in the future and now numbers fifty-seven members.

As an open “city in the city,” this spectacular building complex on Mannheim’s most picturesque square revitalizes the museum’s status as a cosmopolitan element. Seven exhibition houses, linked by staircases, bridges, and terraces, surround the 21.5m high light-filled atrium. The accessible street-level entrance draws the public into the building. Visitors can enjoy a relaxed stroll, surprising encounters with art, and spectacular views over the city.

“The Kunsthalle Mannheim is a special place that differs fundamentally from the older idea of a museum. We are open to everyone and address ourselves directly to people’s everyday lives in our collection displays, exhibitions, and museum program,” explains Dr. Ulrike Lorenz, director of the Kunsthalle Mannheim. “Building on the foundation of the democratic founding maxims of the institution, we are opening ourselves to the society of today. Carrying forward the Kunsthalle’s tradition of educating the people and developing the early-twentieth-century role of the ‘museum for contemporary art,’ we are aiming to carve out the next stage in the development of the museum. On the occasion of the Grand Opening, we are putting forward five theses on the art museum of the future for public discussion (see the attachment for more details). Our focus is to rediscover the institution of the museum for the twenty-first century.”

The physical reopening of the Kunsthalle Mannheim is complemented by a comprehensive digital strategy, which will be completed and made public over the course of summer 2018. “As we address the young and dynamic audience of the future, we will open up new channels of communication to enable dialogue and to build long-lasting interest. We aim to use digital tools as part of an integrated strategy to heighten perception, develop awareness, and spark creativity,” says Lorenz.

As an open, interactive museum, the Kunsthalle Mannheim aims to address people of all generations and cultures. The mission statement “Art for All” is reflected by “ProgrammPlus”: the Bar of the Present, the Community College, the Laboratory of the Future, and an inspiring program of symposia all open new pathways to art and culture, to societal questions, and to shared values. Lorenz states, “Our goal is to educate democratic citizens to think critically and to emancipate our diverse audience—ultimately also from the ‘controlling institution’ of the museum itself.”

“A rich and lively cultural landscape is an important ingredient not only in the cultural but also in the economic success of a place. In the competition between cities for workers and innovation, and for founding and retaining companies, art and culture play a deciding role. When it reopens, the Kunsthalle Mannheim will become a vital beacon in the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region and make an invaluable contribution to the attractiveness of Mannheim as a city,” says Michael Grötsch, Mannheim mayor for culture and economic affairs.

The first special exhibition “APPEARANCE” is dedicated to Jeff Wall. “It was a conscious decision to reopen with a contemporary, internationally established figure,” says Lorenz. “From its founding years onward, the Kunsthalle Mannheim has been one of the few German museums to consistently focus on contemporary art. Wall’s pioneering achievement in photography is rooted in the history of modern painting—Manet serves as a central point of reference for him—and this first exhibition in our new building also identifies a gap in our collection.” In the future, the Kunsthalle Mannheim aims to do more with fine art photography.

As a pioneer of contemporary fine art photography, Jeff Wall played a leading role in achieving recognition for fine art photography as an artistic medium. The Canadian-born artist became famous for using the tools of contemporary photography to develop the themes of modern painting and was awarded the Hasselblad Award for Photography in 2002. “In his works, Jeff Wall depicts our perception of our surroundings and ourselves in an artistically impressive way,” says curator Dr. Sebastian Baden. “Together with the artist, we decided to make ‘appearance,’ the question of reality in the image and its staging, the thematic focus of our show.” The exhibition will take place in cooperation with Mudam Luxembourg – Musee d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, where it will be shown from October 5, 2018 to January 6, 2019.

James Turrell’s light tunnel will not be able to open in time for the Grand Opening, as it is still awaiting the artist’s final approval. As soon as this has been received, the work will debut in the second half of 2018.





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