The Zentrum für Internationale Lichtkunst Unna is unique. The city itself first stepped into the international spotlight in the field of contemporary art as the location of the centre. It is the only museum in the world to dedicate itself exclusively to this stand-alone, avant-garde art form.
In Unna, the centre is designed so as to highlight the installation-based aspects of the works on display. The Zentrum für Internationale Lichtkunst is situated in the premises of the Lindenbrauerei brewery, which was shut down in 1979. It is one of the 25 anchor points along the Ruhr area's "Industrial Heritage Trail". This means that it is part of the region's industrial and cultural heritage.
In Unna, seemingly contradictory realms complement one another in a coherent manner. The city lies on the eastern outskirts of the Metropolis Ruhr, situated between an area characterised by industry and the fertile agricultural lowlands of North Germany. This spatial feature provides the Zentrum für Internationale Lichtkunst, which opened in 2002, with an additional time-related aspect: the historic location is now home to works which are based on the latest in lighting technology. Its visitors can experience the perfect symbiosis between old and new.
The cultural metropolis is also visible through its landmarks. One such landmark is the Lindenbrauerei's chimney, which towers 52 metres into the air. This chimney, which can be seen from a distance, acts as the background for Mario Merz' work "Fibonacci-Reihe". This is based on the series of numbers which help to describe natural processes of growth, which humans have been aware of since ancient times. In Unna, these are lit up in a neon blue against the night sky.
Below ground, the industrial atmosphere of the former cooling cellars and fermentation vats, as well as the labyrinthine walkways, emphasises the effect of the objects on display.
The highlight of the Zentrum für Internationale Lichtkunst's permanent exhibition takes the form of the works of James Turrell. Born in Los Angeles in 1943, Turrell is one of the most significant representatives of this innovative art form. He uses artistic means to investigate our perception of space and light in great depth. With regard to content, his work forms the focus of the collection.
It is thanks to the Zentrum für Internationale Lichtkunst in Unna that the Metropolis Ruhr has the distinction of displaying two of Turrell's works. In "Floater 99", visitors appear to dissolve in diffuse light. "Third Breath" forms part of Turrell's "Skyspace" series and is based on the principle of a camera obscura. Here, from May to October each year, visitors are able to use their senses to experience the sky above Unna in a unique manner.
Some of the thirteen internationally-acclaimed artists who have set up a permanent installation in the Zentrum für Internationale Lichtkunst include Christian Boltanski, Olafur Eliasson, Rebecca Horn, Joseph Kosuth and Christina Kubisch, among others.
The temporary exhibitions, discussions, symposia, conferences and workshops on the subject of light are additional aspects which make a visit to Unna highly worthwhile. The centre supports artists who innovatively and creatively further develop the field of light art with the "International Light Art Award". The award has been presented every two years since 2015 in cooperation with the innogy Stiftung für Energie und Gesellschaft.
Please note: the Zentrum für Internationale Lichtkunst Unna can only be visited as part of a public tour. However, on the 1st Sunday of every month, visitors are allowed to discover the centre's collected works and temporary exhibitions for themselves.
In its form, the Centre for International Light Art is worldwide the first and only museum that focuses on the presentation of light art. The encounter between avant-garde light art and historic building substance creates a distinctive atmosphere and stages an exciting dialogue between the past and the future.
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