Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Kunsthalles Conundrum

This week, Art News published a great article on Kunsthalles – an increasingly rare kind of museums without a permanent collection of their own but that are designed as a space for exhibiting art, most often emerging artists, in a non-commercial way. This style of museum is more popular in Europe and abroad where museums are founded and funded through government aid, so the handful that exist in the US are very cool to read about. Think of the challenges faced by an institution with no collection and no set identity of its own….

“Most urgently, how do you raise money for a museum whose mission is decidedly fluid with a collection that is conspicuously absent? How do you court trustee-collectors when you can’t offer them a home for their beloved objects? And … how does an architect design a building without a group of artworks or artists in mind?”

But, there are just as many opportunities and advantages than challenges to the Kunsthalles. The freedom to experiment, ability to focus more resources on programming (than say storage, restoration, etc.), an ability to stay on the artistic cutting edge by supporting emerging artists, and to attract audiences and donors who feel similarly. What I find most compelling about the Kunsthalle style is its ability to provide a home for the art of wealthy art collectors, when other museums are fighting for their dollars.  Pieces that might not otherwise be able to reach the public eye can be shared (at the expense of the collector, for the benefit of the public).

I could probably create a laundry list of both benefits (being cutting edge, focusing on living artists) and setbacks (confusing marketing/branding, education/accessibility for viewers) of the Kunsthalle, but in closing I’ll mention in my current position at the AU Museum, which is Kunsthalle style, meaning we have a private collection but it is not shown, it’s always interesting but getting there, exhibition planning, logistics, etc. are always messy. Like the art shown, preparation and planning are never the same.


2 comments on “Kunsthalles Conundrum

  1. carolynsupinka18
    October 8, 2014

    I found Kunsthalles really fascinating. It’s interesting that these groups view themselves as first and foremost a space, rather than an organization. I think that keeping this ‘blank slate’ identity would lead to many incredible ‘creative opportunities’ that Longhauser mentions in the article.
    On the flipside, I’m on the email list of a UK organization called Somewhere_To:

    This organization has contacts all over the UK and works to connect ‘creative individuals’ with the space that best fits their needs. These spaces can be used for galleries, exhibits, projects, performances- their name says it all. “Somewhere to….do something.” I love the idea of focusing on the relationship between the work and the space. While I agree that it must create a lot of challenges for Kunsthalles as opposed to traditional institutions, I think the excitement and experimentation inherent in this structure (or non structure) is worth the risk.

  2. benjamendouglas
    October 13, 2014

    First of all, I love the architecture of the Aspen center!

    Secondly, I think that the flexibility offered by kunsthalles will become incredibly important as organizations have to become more nimble to respond to changing times. I actually wonder if, rather than the death of the kunsthalle (in America, anyway), we’ll eventually see a rise in that model?

    I can imagine that the expenses of conservation, climate control, etc. required for a collection might one day push more medium sized organizations to eschew collections to become spaces for presentation.

    Artisphere, for example, has really cool exhibitions, but no collection.

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