Statement on Kunsthalle Wien‘s program in 2020


Kunsthalle Wien is dedicated to art and its relations to social change. It produces exhibitions, researches art practices, and supports local and international artists. It seeks to ground its knowledge of international contemporary art in and for Vienna, and advocates for the usefulness of artistic thinking in the wider public sphere.

Ivet Ćurlin, Nataša Ilić und Sabina Sabolović, the Kunsthalle Wien’s new directors, have based their program on twenty years of collective work in Zagreb and internationally. That work has been particularly interested in artistic practices located outside the centers of power, as well as the links to various activist endeavors. WHW therefore aims to put Vienna in all its diversity at the center of the program, setting up exchanges with geographies, histories and knowledges that have less visibility and recognition than activities in the main western capitals.

WHW: “We find Vienna as a rare and precious city that maintains a strong commitment to public cultural institutions and initiatives. The city’s support will allow us to bring less visible presences and more marginal ideas to our local publics. We want to direct Kunsthalle Wien in a way that it can host a multiplicity of voices beyond the mainstream, while always ensuring a dialogue with and support for local artists and communities’ concerns. The program will therefore reflect the cultural diversity of our wider region, its entangled histories and current troubles while always having an eye on the international horizon. We want to make the exhibitions speak to people in Vienna and touch their thoughts and emotions. To achieve that, we will seek to make ideas tangible and artworks accessible without reducing the complexity of thinking that is present in many works of art. We believe this year’s program translates these ambitions into concrete projects and we hope to welcome a large, diverse and engaged public.”
The main ‘red threads’ through our program in 2020 are:

Guest curators
We want to continually bring outside perspectives to the Kunsthalle Wien that can have an impact and supplement what Vienna already has to offer artistically. This year we have invited the curators/theorists Miguel A. López, Diedrich Diederichsen, and Oier Etxeberria to share their current research on the artistic situation internationally. Their projects explore the connections between different artistic subjectivities and methods. The guest curators will be especially encouraged to look for resonances between their topics and local art practices.

Strong presence of local artists
At the base of all program elements and new structures is a desire to create a dialogue with the Viennese art scene while expanding our international horizon and always seeking to connect one with the other. An obvious key component of this effort is to ensure a strong presence of artists living and working here. To this end, Ana Hoffner ex-Prvulovic* and Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński have been invited to have substantial solo presentations. Additionally, two young artists will again have works produced as part of the Kunsthalle Wien Prize. Local artists will be included in all of the group shows in 2020.

Institutional collaborations
Most of the 2020 exhibitions are going to be realized in collaboration with other Viennese institutions. This is a deliberate choice to join forces with colleagues in realizing ambitious projects and reach out to a wider circle of potential audiences. Joint performative and educational events already started with Burgtheater in late 2019 as a lead up to the first exhibition … of bread, wine, cars, security and peace. The exhibition And if I devoted my life to one of its feathers? (curated by Miguel A. López) is developed together with Wiener Festwochen. Kunsthalle Wien will also be collaborating with the festival on a special project in the Karlsplatz space.

The retrospective of Želimir Žilnik is our first artistic collaboration with Viennale.

The exhibition Cybernetics of the Poor (curated by Diedrich Diederichsen and Oier Etxeberria) is a co-production with Tabakalera in Donostia/San Sebastián. Also this form of international co-production will be developed further in the future.

We are also continuing the collaboration with both the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and the University of Applied Arts Vienna through the Kunsthalle Wien Prize which stresses our responsibility to promote the emerging generation of Viennese artists by supporting their first major productions. With the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, our ambition for the collaboration goes further, with an independent series of artists talks and discussions to be held in the framework of … of bread, wine, cars, security and peace hopefully leading to further joint activities in the years to come.

Finally, in 2020, we are developing a series of events in collaboration with das weisse haus, who will host several artists in their residency program during the whole duration of the first show.

Continuous exchange
Vienna has a very active ‘alternative’ art scene that is a valued part of the artistic landscape here. WHW believes that Kunsthalle Wien can play a useful role in bringing some of these initiatives into contact with a broader public and therefore wants to establish an exchange with various off–spaces, grassroots initiatives and activist organizations over the next years. These kinds of collaborations rightly ask for a strong and long-term commitment. Our first attempt to do this will be to open an Exhibition Machine in the Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier where production, discussion and exchange between Kunsthalle Wien and local artists, cultural workers and various initiatives can develop on a smaller scale as well as in a more intensive manner.

Kunsthalle Wien has an impressive and multilayered educational program, and the new directors want to support and develop it further in 2020. The educational department will therefore work in closer collaboration with many exhibiting artists, allowing them to think together about which formats and subjects can resonate best with different local audiences. Lectures, workshops and conferences connected to the opening exhibition will be developed with, among others, the Verein für Frauenintegration, Amerlinghaus, das weisse haus, Burgtheater, Brunnenpassage, the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, and numerous artists and collectives such as Marwa Arsanios, Cooking Sections, Hana Miletić, Pirate Care and Andreas Siekmann, who will conduct a variety of public events. During the whole year there will be a rich program of public events focused on the processes and impacts of artistic work, as well as activities targeted on closed groups, stressing the need for the institution to function also as a research space.

The educational department will continue its very successful program for children encompassing a new edition of the exhibition Space for Kids structured this year as a summer academy for young people called The Art-Nature Lab or the Mushrooming Cabinet of Wonders. Many of our educational projects, developed with the help of artistic perspectives, seek to raise awareness of Kunsthalle Wien’s activities amongst various local publics, taking into account its many communities and current urgencies.

Kunsthalle Wien wants to apply principles of openness, diversity and fairness to its institutional structures. One of the first encounters in that respect was with IG Bildende Kunst, who informed us about their struggles for the fair treatment of artists. Kunsthalle Wien fully supports this initiative and we therefore commit to paying a fee to all the artists and cultural workers participating in our programs. We hope that a living wage for artists can be a wider topic in the cultural field in the coming years, and Kunsthalle Wien would be happy to host such debates.


WHW: “Our program’s desire is to have a strong international exchange based on solidarity and to develop a relation to the local. Visitors will show how and if we make it real over the course of this year. We naturally welcome the support of local communities, but we also anticipate learning from their questioning, liking, disliking and doubting what we do. Through an active discussion, we hope we will be able to make Kunsthalle Wien a real house of art for the city.”