frieze reports from this year’s Skulptur Projekte Münster – the once-a-decade exhibition installed throughout its namesake German city – and explores the changing meaning of sculpture in public space today
Skulptur Projekte Münster:
The Skulptur Projekte Münster have been taking place every ten years since 1977. The history is closely linked with the idea of creating a public not just with but also for art. This runs contrary to many projects presented in the public realm since the late 1990s, in which the main focus has frequently been on matters related to the city’s social and economic development. Fully conscious of the difficulties of defining “public” in connection with the term “art in the public realm”, for the 2017 Skulptur Projekte we are as convinced as ever that art in the urban realm is capable of activating historical, architectural, social, political and aesthetic contexts. We see its great potential not in the occupation, but rather in the creation, of spaces.
The realization of the exhibition already conveys a political message per se: with the aid of public funds, the Skulptur Projekte point out the significance of the public space as a heterogeneous sphere that is indispensable for socio-cultural coexistence and cannot be subordinated to economic interests. The support of the project by the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe, the LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur, the city of Münster, the German Federal Cultural Foundation and further partners is being provided with full respect for this fundamental autonomy.
A ROUGH SKETCH OF THE INITIAL SITUATION
Klaus Bußmann, then curator and later director of the Westfälisches Landesmuseum, initiated the Skulptur Projekte in 1977 with Kasper König, who has shared the responsibility for every edition of the show since then with changing team constellations. The founding of the decennial had been preceded by a public controversy over Three Rotary Squares by George Rickey, a kinetic sculpture that had been erected in Münster. In resistance to the city’s predominant voices, the Skulptur Projekte offered an aesthetic self-awareness programme that was to allow a broad public to acquaint itself with modern sculpture on an everyday basis. Even if the relationship eventually reversed and, by 1997 at the latest, the city discovered the exhibition as a unique selling point for Münster, the Skulptur Projekte still bear the stamp of these origins.
THE FIFTH ISSUE IN 2017
The generous rhythm of the show’s realization – at ten-year intervals – distinguishes the Skulptur Projekte clearly from other major international exhibitions. From the curatorial point of view, the renown of this decennial, which has grown continually over the decades, goes hand in hand with great responsibility, but also with great freedom: the exhibition’s broad impact and the unchanging spatial context – the city of Münster as the venue but also as an experienced cooperation partner – permit uncompromised drilling into the depths.
From the start, the development of the exhibition has always been based on the participating artists’ proposals for temporary projects in the urban space. Whereas the exploration of contemporary sculpture and the myriad possibilities for staging art in the public space are virtually inherent to this exhibition concept, every decade also raises issues of its own. For the curatorial team of the coming exhibition – Kasper König as artistic director with Britta Peters and Marianne Wagner – these issues revolve primarily around experiences of body, time and space in times of increasing digitalization.
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