The university and art have a long tradition together. Discover it at the Kunsthalle zu Kiel.
Two stunning escorts guide visitors up the outdoor stairs and towards the museum: the bisons weigh tonnes (sculptor: August Gaul) and constitute the imposing entrance to an equally imposing building – Kiel’s art museum, the Kunsthalle zu Kiel. The Kunsthalle is not simply a museum with its own collection and exhibition hall; it is also one of Kiel University’s institutions and features a lecture theatre and a library, making the Kunsthalle the only institution of its kind in Germany.
“The history of the building, which was built between 1903 and 1909, is quite special,” according to Dr Anette Hüsch, director of the Kunsthalle: the property on Düsternbrooker Weg was a gift from a professor’s daughter named Charlotte, or “Lotte”, Hegewisch (1822–1903). In 1820 her father acquired the “Klein-Elmeloo”, a piece of property named after its elms and located outside of the gates of Kiel, where he intended to build a summer home. Lotte lived on her own there during the last part of her life. In 1886 she learned at first hand that there were plans to replace the castle garden and its old trees with a museum. The Schleswig-Holsteinischer Kunstverein (Schleswig-Holstein Art Association) wanted a building where it could exhibit its collection.
To save the castle garden, Lotte Hegewisch decided to bequeath her house and property to Kiel University so the new art museum could be built. The art museum was also supposed to become the art association’s main office and provide exhibition space for its collection. After Lotte’s death in 1903, construction of the new building began. The Neo-baroque and Jugendstil building was opened in 1909. The bison sculptures came to rest in front of the entrance shortly afterwards.
The building was enlarged in 1986. The Kunsthalle needed a new wing because the collection belonging to the university and the art association had grown considerably. The Kunsthalle now owns more than 300 sculptures and 1,200 paintings from Dürer’s time to the present, including works by Emil Nolde, Georg Baselitz, Neo Rauch and Gerhard Richter. It also owns approximately 40,000 graphic works from the early 16th century to the present, as well as numerous photographs and video installations.
The permanent collection exhibition is displayed in the old wing and changes every year. “We have space for pieces by guest artists in the new wing,” the director explains. The team has a total of 2,000 square metres at its disposal, not counting the collection of classical antiquities on the ground floor. “The collection belongs to the Institute for Archaeology; the Kunsthalle is an independent institution of the university,” according to Hüsch. The large reference library also testifies to the close relationship with the university. With over 55,000 volumes, it has the largest collection of publications devoted to art and art history from the 19th century to the present in Schleswig-Holstein. The Kunsthalle also has a lecture theatre.
“We address both students and members of the general public who are interested in art in equal measure,” Hüsch explains. Helping people access art is an exciting challenge, especially in times of digitalisation, when paintings and sculptures can be seen on the Internet. With not only workshops but also painting and art courses for all age groups, the 17-person team and numerous freelance arts education employees invite visitors to engage in interactive and creative dialogues with the pieces at the Kunsthalle. The team at the Kunsthalle also draws a wide range of visitors by organising changing exhibitions: sometimes visitors can discover traditional work in the rooms, and sometimes they can view contemporary art.
Author: Jennifer Ruske
Kunsthalle zu Kiel, Düsternbrooker Weg 1.
Opening hours: 10 am to 6 pm Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am to 8 pm Wednesday.
Admission prices: 7 Euros, reduced price 4 Euros