The Stadthaus exhibition programme

The Ulm Minster and the Stadthaus during the evening twilight. Photo: Ulm / Neu-Ulm Touristik GmbH - Ulm City Archives
Stadthaus and Minster
Photo: Ulm/Neu-Ulm Touristik GmbH - Stadtarchiv Ulm

In the 25 years since it opened, the Stadthaus as a gallery has gained a reputation far beyond the region. Its constantly developing exhibition programme embraces current issues that are of relevance both socially and politically, never shying away from uncomfortable topics.

Photography, as it turned out, is an art form that fits right in with the Stadthaus. A diverse group of photographers has exhibited here, such as Herlinde Koelbl or Nick Brandt, Olaf Otto Becker, Michael Wesely and Lina Kim, Bettina Flitner, Donata Wenders, Jan Banning, Janne Lehtinen and Jodi Bieber, Anja Niedringhaus, Bryan Adams, Karin Szekessy, Timm Rautert and Jim Rakete, Magnum photographers Abbas and Martin Parr, or — right at the beginning, Joseph Gallus von Rittenberg. These names alone bear witness to the wide spectrum of topics presented at the Stadthaus in terms of photography.

Richard Meier’s Stadthaus is particularly suited to inspire the examination of architecture. Exhibitions in the architecture series deal not only with the construction of buildings, they explore the whole spectrum of architecture, comprising architectural history, landscaping, the future of architecture and the trends of architectural avant-garde. The work of Richard Meier himself was featured in two exhibitions as well.

The term Outsider Art emphasises that these works of art are different. ‘But different from what?’ asks Claudia Dichter (in: Outsider Art. Collection Charlotte Zander. Bönnigheim 1999). ‘Who draws up those categories? Outsider Art presents a maximum of identity, the identity of art and life itself. It illustrates the artists’ personal mythological frameworks, their visions and their obsessions. The quality of these works is independent of the creators’ state of mind.’ Ever since 1996, Outsider Art has been regularly featured at the Stadthaus. The first exhibition presented works from Kreative Werkstatt (creativity workshop) at Diakonie Stetten (1996), further exhibitions included artists such as Gustav Mesmer, the ‘Icarus of Lautertal’, rocket engineer Karl-Hans Janke, North American Daniel Johnston or Normann Seibold, who resides in Grafeneck in the Swabian Jura. One of the latest exhibitions presented works from the renowned Dammann Collection, as well as works by artists from Atelier Goldstein in Frankfurt.

Extraordinary exhibitions generate extraordinary public interest. Sometimes they are extraordinary in terms of form or content, which means they are presented outside of our usual series under the heading of außer der Reihe (‘none of the above’). In 2001 for example, the Stadthaus hosted the exhibition Totentanz by the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. Sometimes exhibitions will honour distinguished personalities from Ulm or follow special anniversaries, such as the Otl Aicher exhibition in 1997, the exhibition about Albert Einstein in 2004 on the occasion of his 125th birthday, or the exhibition in 2011, commemorating the 200th anniversary of Albrecht Ludwig Berblinger’s failed attempt to fly across the river Danube.

A further element of the Stadthaus programme is contemporary history. In 2008, the exhibition Die Mörder sind unter uns (‘the murderers are amongst us’) about the Ulm Task Force Trial of 1958 was met with huge interest. Now and then, this series will overlap with other series, such as the photography exhibition Images of North Korea, which offered a glimpse into a country that is one of the most inaccessible countries on earth.

The Richard Meier designed Stadthaus was and is Ulm’s statement concerning modernity. Especially in the first 15 years, the Stadthaus has been presenting contemporary art within an outstanding example of contemporary architecture. The focus were and are artists born after 1960. The theme of architecture in fine arts as well as artists who, like the Stadthaus architect himself, draw their inspiration from nature are of special interest.

Young artists who received the municipal subsidy award are also presented. The city of Ulm awards a biennial prize promoting young art from Ulm in the areas of fine arts, performing arts, music, literature and film/new media. This award includes opportunities for the artists to present their work, for example at the Stadthaus.

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