Housed in a former margarine factory and sporting a social event-friendly courtyard designed by Dan Graham, Kunst Werke has been a major non-profit showcase since the early 1990s. Recently, the institution embarked upon a new phase in its 20-odd year history with a new Chief Curator Ellen Blumenstein, who took over in 2012. Incidentally Blumenstein, along with Klaus Biesenbach, was one of the curators behind KW’s controversial ‘Regarding Terror: RAF Exhibition’ in 1995, which caused such a public stink with its references to the 1970s German terrorist group that government funding was withdrawn.
Today, Blumenstein promises more emollient, audience-friendly programmes, insisting that the institution move back from the realms of the (occasionally) utterly esoteric and baffling and return to engaging with the public. Always a lightning rod for the local art scene, the new, open approach sees KW engaging with other galleries and organized projects around town, from the recent ‘Berlin Art Week’ initiative, which saw the space co-host the multi-part ‘About Painting’ exhibition to hosting the annual and cheerfully never-less-than-controversial Berlin Biennale. A lively programme of exhibitions, film screenings, talks and presentations means that twenty years on, KW remains implacably at the heart of Berlin’s cultural agenda. The proximity to the Jüdischen Mädchenschule across the street has of late become another reason for making at least one trip to Auguststrasse absolutely essential.