Part of being an art gallery means using exhibitions to constantly reinvent your image. While the Kunsthalle Recklinghausen may have its own collection, solo exhibitions – of contemporary art in particular – are unmistakeably the gallery's main focus.
In doing so, the Kunsthalle Recklinghausen interweaves all the roles it plays in an exemplary manner. It acts as a platform for the regional art scene, organises the "junger westen" competition (young west competition), which is recognised across Germany, and, each year, also acts as an exhibition hall for international works of art as part of the Ruhrfestspiele.
Situated diagonally opposite the main train station, there never was a more centrally-located museum. From the outside, the converted above-ground bunker with its metre-thick walls still has a forbidding and functional appearance, even following the completion of modernisation works in 2011. The three almost perfectly square levels, with their dark tiled floors and neon lights installed on high ceilings, also refuse to conceal the former purpose of the building. In doing so, they lend the building a character which continually inspires artists to carry out works related specifically to the location. Initially thought of as a temporary measure, the above-ground bunker was a space infused with symbolic meaning for the opening exhibition "Deutsche und französische Kunst der Gegenwart – eine Begegnung" (Contemporary German and French Art – an Exchange), which compared contemporary French and German art, a mere five years after the Second World War came to an end.
For many years after the Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen art exhibition was first opened, the Kunsthalle Recklinghausen would put on a large, themed exhibition for the event, which takes place every year in May. However, since the 1990s, it has gravitated more towards using the event to create a solo exhibition on contemporary art, for example that of Henry Moore, Magdalena Jetelová or Jan Fabre.
In 2017, the Kunsthalle Recklinghausen presented an extensive exhibition called "Auf dem Weg zur Avantgarde – Die Künstlergruppe junger westen" (On the way to the avant-garde – the group of artists of the "junger westen") to celebrate 70 years of the junger westen group – an important part of the gallery's own history. After World War Two, artists from the Ruhr area who saw the appropriate artistic answer to the industrial world as lying on the path towards abstraction congregated around the gallery. The exclusively male group of founding members was made up of Gustav Deppe, Thomas Grochowiak, Ernst Hermanns, Emil Schumacher, Heinrich Siepmann and Hans Werdehausen, and had a big influence on the artistic movement in the recently-formed Federal Republic of Germany. In Hagen, an entire museum has been dedicated to probably the most famous member of the "junger westen" group of artists and, at the same time, a key figure of the German Informel, Emil Schumacher.
The Kunsthalle Recklinghausen carries particular weight in terms of its "junger westen" art prize, for which exhibitions take place every two years and for which the winner receives 10,000 euros. This prize can be traced back to the eponymous group of artists. Nowadays, the prize, which has been awarded every two years since 1948, is presented in a range of artistic disciplines in turn. All artists with German nationality or artists who reside in Germany may apply for the prize, as long as they are younger than 35 years of age. In addition to the prize winner, further selected works of art are invited to take part in the group exhibition, which offers visitors a concentrated overview of current trends in the art world.
Former prize winners include artists as varied as Gerhard Richter (1967), who is represented in the collection with his "Kitchen Chair" painting, Ulrich Genth (2001), who opened the gigantic "Tiger and Turtle – Magic Mountain" sculptural walkway on top of a spoil tip in Duisburg together with his partner Heike Mutter ten years after winning the prize, or Michael Sailstorfer (2011), whose "Mückenhäuser" light art lines the former railway line between Hubertusstraße and Friedrich-Ebert-Straße in Recklinghausen.
01. May – 07. August 2022
With "Flo's Retrospective", Kunsthalle Recklinghausen is presenting the first solo exhibition of the Estonian artist Flo Kasearu (*1985) in Germany as part of the Ruhrfestspiele 2022. Flo Kasearu is able to condense socially urgent and politically relevant topics in a remarkable way in her installative and interactive works.
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