KW Institute for Contemporary Art aims to approach the central questions of our times through the production, display, and dissemination of contemporary art. Since its inception, 25 years ago, KW has established itself, not only as an institution, but also as a dynamic and lively space for progressive practices within the Berlin art scene, as well as in an international context. By means of exhibitions and various event formats, KW has aligned itself towards the current tendencies of the national and international art and cultural discourse, and has actively developed them on a collaborative level with artists, institutions, and by means of commissioned works. As an institution for contemporary art without a collection of its own, the team at KW maintains a high degree of flexibility in creating its programs and addressing its audience.
Under the responsibility of director Krist Gruijthuijsen, the current program evolves around the central objective of using the participating artists’ perspective as a starting point, entailing their subjects and points of view as ways to reflect on social and political issues. The institution is thereby conceived as a social space that facilitates contemplation and exchange between different protagonists and cultures, consistently challenging its audience. The building complex includes exhibition halls, apartments, offices, and event spaces, as well as the Café Bravo in the courtyard, that was designed by Dan Graham in 1999 (view photo below left).
In addition to its internationally renowned exhibition program, KW collaborates on a regular basis with national and international partners, such as MoMA PS1, the Biennale di Venezia and Documenta in Kassel.
KW Institute for Contemporary Art is located on Auguststraße in Berlin-Mitte. It is institutionally supported by the Senate Department for Culture and Europe. The program of KW is kindly supported by the KW Freunde e. V.
KW Institute for Contemporary Art was founded by Klaus Biesenbach and a group of young art enthusiasts in a practically derelict former margarine factory in Berlin-Mitte in the early 1990s. Since then, KW has delivered a significant contribution to the development of Berlin as an international center for contemporary art.
After the resolution of restitution claims, the heritage-listed front building from the early 18th century and the factory building, dating back to the 1870s, were acquired in the mid 1990s by the Berlin Lotto Foundation and placed at the disposal of KUNST-WERKE BERLIN e. V. for cultural use. Thanks to the support of the national urban heritage conservation program, the foundation for heritage conservation and the Berlin Lotto Foundation, the KUNST-WERKE BERLIN e. V. was able to renovate the buildings and extend them with two new structures: The Café Bravo was designed by American artist Dan Graham and realized in cooperation with the architect Johanne Nalbach; the Berlin Architect Hans Düttmann expanded the transverse wing by a 400 m² exhibition hall. Upon its reopening in autumn 1999, KW has had several office and studio spaces in the side wings, one of the most beautiful courtyards in Berlin-Mitte and 2.000 m² of exhibition space across five floors at its disposal, which are also put into use every two years for the Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art. Founded through a private initiative in 1996, the Berlin Biennale has been receiving exclusive funding as a lighthouse project from the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation) since 2004. Since then, KUNST-WERKE BERLIN e. V. functions as the partner and support association of the Berlin Biennale.
Many outstanding artists have presented their first solo exhibitions as well as significant new works at KW, amongst others, Absalon, Kader Attia, Kate Cooper, Keren Cytter, Ceal Floyer, Cyprien Gaillard, Dor Guez, Channa Horwitz, Sigalit Landau, Renata Lucas, Annette Kelm, Michael Müller, Mika Rottenberg, Christoph Schlingensief, Wael Shawky, Santiago Sierra as well as Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch.
Thematic shows and group exhibitions such as 37 Räume (1992), Stand der Dinge (2000), Territories (2003), Zur Vorstellung des Terrors: Die RAF-Ausstellung (2005), Into Me / Out Of Me (2006), History Will Repeat Itself. Strategien des Reenactment in der zeitgenössischen Kunst (2007), Seeing is Believing (2011), One on One (2012/13) or Fire and Forget. On Violence (2015) have shaped the profile of KW and continuously influenced the international art discourse.
Gabriele Horn, the successor of founding director Klaus Biesenbach, was appointed as both director of KW Institute of Contemporary Art and the Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art in 2004. As of July 2016, after the restructuring of both institutions, she remains the director of the Berlin Biennale.
Anselm Franke (2001–2006), Susanne Pfeffer (2007–2012), and Ellen Blumenstein (2013–2016) served as KW’s chief curators. Internationally renowned guest curators were furthermore regularly invited to develop their exhibition projects within KW.
Krist Gruijthuijsen is director of KW since July 2016. His artistic team consists of Anna Gritz as curator, Mason Leaver-Yap and Tirdad Zolghadr as associate curators, Maurin Dietrich and Cathrin Mayer as assistant curators and project managers, and Marc Hollenstein as graphic designer.To the exhibitions of KW Institute
Image caption: Philippe Van Snick, Dag/Nacht, 1984 – ongoing, Installation view entrance gate, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Photo: Frank Sperling, Courtesy Tatjana Pieters
KW Institute for Contemporary Art – KUNST-WERKE BERLIN e.V. | ART at Berlin