Pilot phase in Germany
Starting in 2017, we, the Gesellschaft der Neuen Auftraggeber, develop public art projects in two model regions in Germany, working with citizens who take initiative and commission works of contemporary art. In cooperation with the German Federal Cultural Foundation, we will begin our activities in the two regions with an initial group of five mediators and five partner institutions—we call them anchor points.
Over time, a steadily growing network of partnerships will generate projects that will move and mobilize people and seek to produce results articulating people’s social as well as artistic aspiration to take an active part in shaping their society. We have implemented numerous such projects in the past and have confidence in the commitment and dedication of both the citizenry and the artists. Throughout Europe, the New Patrons have realized over 500 projects. Teaming up with partners from civil society and financial and political supporters, we now propose to demonstrate that Germany, too, has a considerable need for contemporary art that takes on the challenges of the present, forges new alliances, and brings new public art objects into the world that mean something to people.
Regions and Anchor Points
In cooperation with the German Federal Cultural Foundation, our work in Germany currently focuses on two model regions. Both are undergoing profound structural changes, but each has its own trajectory of transformation and faces unique challenges. We aim to build project structures both in urban agglomerations and in rural regions—areas where the existing cultural and social infastructures are comparatively dense and underdeveloped, respectively. Engaging with the very different sets of problems that arise from the Ruhr district’s shift to a postindustrial economy and the processes of transformation along the German-Polish border, we hope to devise methods and tools and gain experiences we can subsequently adapt to diverse regions in Germany and Europe. We build on models of action that have been developed in similarly heterogeneous settings in France, Italy, and Belgium, where the New Patrons were active in metropolitan areas like Turin or Marseille, but also in rural Burgundy. The close collaboration between our Berlin office, the regional mediators, and our partner institutions, the “anchor points,” is designed to set up sustainable infrastructures and pave the way for future New Patrons programs and projects. The anchor points act as both regional contacts and switchboards for the project work involving mediators, citizens, and artists.
The Model Regions
The rural northeast: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Brandenburg
Rural northeastern Germany is undergoing wrenching change. An exodus from the villages contrasts with the revived prosperity of some regional centers. However, in the wake of the first wave of out-migration triggered by industries shutting down, unemployment, and wage imbalances, some towns and regions already suffer not only from declining infrastructure but also from severely eroded cultural identities. This effect is compounded by the fact that, in small towns and rural areas, cultural practice before 1989 was often largely bound up with the workplace, and many businesses have ceased to exist or shrunken considerably. Throughout Germany, this shifting of the foundations of identity is especially conspicuous when, as will sometime be the case, it prompts the emergence of forms of political radicalism. It is a development with no less profound consequences for the local political discourse, the negotiation of local visions for the future, and the redefinition of the rationales guiding the ongoing development and reconfiguration of the local community.
A western industrial region in transformation: North Rhine–Westphalia / Ruhr district
The Ruhr district is going through a wave of deindustrialization, not the first in its history. Meanwhile, more and more municipalities are mired in unsustainable debt and forced to cut down on discretionary spending on cultural services. The larger cities are increasingly divided into stable middle-class districts and economically challenged problem districts, a process that in some places spurs political radicalization. Conflict sometimes erupts between newly arriving and more established immigrant groups. Identification among residents with their region remains high. Yet its self-image is still informed by apologetic patterns of argument honed over the years. Artificially constructed monuments to conversion such as landscape parks preserve the region’s history under museum glass. To outside observers, it remains unclear how new structures of solidarity, visions for the future, and efforts to redevelop economically challenged areas can be brought together to outline a forward-looking self-image for the region’s cities and towns.
Schloss Bröllin e.V. © Schloss Bröllin e.V. Archiv
The manor house and extensive compound of Schloss Bröllin are set in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, not far from the German-Polish border; Szczecin (Stettin) lies 40km to the east, Berlin 130km to the south. In 1992, a group of creative minds and dedicated citizens founded Schloss Bröllin e.V., which has grown into an international forum for experimental theater productions. An artist-in-residence program offers rehearsal spaces and accommodations for productions and ensembles; the association also organizes workshops, festivals, regional exhibitions, and symposia, and works to promote the creation of visual art, regional networking efforts, cultural youth outreach, and participation in the national and international cultural scene and to preserve the historic buildings. Over five hundred dance, theater, and performance projects produced at Schloss Bröllin were subsequently presented on stages in the region and throughout Germany and beyond. As a New Patrons anchor point, Schloss Bröllin can build on these experiences, enlarging its methodological and geographical scope and offering advice and support to projects in eastern Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and the region along the Polish-German border.
© Kunstverein Schwerin für Mecklenburg und Vorpommern e.V
Kunstverein Schwerin für Mecklenburg und Vorpommern
Founded in 2002 with the goal of establishing a forum for contemporary visual art, Kunstverein Schwerin has realized a wide range of exhibitions and projects, initially at various temporary venues such as empty storefronts or Schwerin Cathedral and more recently at the arts association’s permanent home in the buildings of the former generating station on Pfaffenteich, one of the lakes that dot the city. Andreas Wegner, who was appointed artistic and managing director in October 2015, has further raised the Kunstverein’s ambitious profile and sees its new role as a New Patrons anchor point as an opportunity to advance its aspiration (signaled by the new name) to extend its activities to the entire state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern by launching pilot projects to foster the growth of model structures that will promote wider interest in cultural production and local identity in the various regions. Kunstverein Schwerin is an institution that embodies this kind of programmatic fresh start, effectively lobbying political decision-makers while nurturing the civic engagement that sustains it.
© Museum Abteiberg
Museum Abteiberg, a municipal museum in Mönchengladbach, not only boasts an outstanding collection and a distinctive architectural identity, it has also initiated a long-term process of institutional self-reinvention that will open it up to the urban society and space around it. Director Susanne Titz has led the museum since 2004. She emphasizes the important role it plays in a city going through economic and demographic structural changes, which it actively addresses with numerous projects. As an anchor point for the New Patrons, it is well positioned to encourage and implement new models of civic participation.
Honoring Museum Abteiberg with its “Museum of the Year” award in 2016, the German division of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) praised its “outstanding collection” of international art, primarily from the decades since 1960, its “carefully developed collaboration with eminent private collections,” and its steady succession of high-quality exhibitions, which made the museum “one of the leading venues for contemporary art in Germany.” The laudation also noted the museum’s home; designed by Hans Hollein and inaugurated in 1982, it is “a globally recognized milestone of postmodern museum architecture.”
© Brandenburgischer Kunstverein Potsdam e.V
Brandenburgischer Kunstverein Potsdam
Since moving out of a loft space mostly known to initiates and into its home in the municipal park on an island in the center of Potsdam, the Brandenburgischer Kunstverein Potsdam has redefined its work. The new location brings vastly different audiences, from residents of the nearby retirement homes to intercontinental tourists, to the BKV, which emphasizes the importance of low-threshold art education offerings as well as high artistic quality. Describing the Kunstverein on the island as a model project testing forms of direct dialogical engagement with the public, its longstanding director Gerrit Gohlke has also sought to expand the association’s work into rural Brandenburg. A New Patrons partner since 2010, the BKV has developed projects involving international artists and the citizens of Brandenburg’s regions, fostering art in rural locations as a way to build bridges between the art world and outlying parts of the state. As a New Patrons anchor point, the BKV will build on these experiences and successful pioneer projects.