The poetess is largely the opposite of what one associates with downtown Essen. The island in the middle of the traffic-washed Berliner Platz is inaccessible, surrounded by a multiplex cinema, shopping center and the Funke Mediengruppe publishing house. But at least temporarily, the roundabout has been converted into a kind of community garden, with trees saved from deforestation elsewhere, raised beds and a fully reusable “round building” for the Essen startup. We owe this idyllic pop-up to one of Essen’s most important cultural institutions, the Folkwang Museum, and its anniversary year.
It has been 100 years since the group of factory owner, arts patron and educational dreamer Karl Ernst Osthaus of Hagen reached its present location. Osthaus died in 1921, and his heirs sold the collection, including the name “Folkwang”, to the Essen Museum Association. Osthaus has long been a reformer who strives to get art out of the ivory tower and into the midst of the population. Following this line of thinking, Folkwang director Peter Gorschlutter has long harbored a plan for a greater penetration of urban space, a mixture of art and social projects, for the 2022 anniversary.
The result, as a link between the large, festive Impressionist and Expressionist exhibitions, is “Folkwang and the City”: a cycle with 18 stations in the northern city of Essen, developed in collaboration with 13 artists and local projects and initiatives developed, jointly coordinated with Marcus Ampach, who was also invited to Kassel Documenta this year. In line with the current trend, the transition between artistic and social projects is flexible.
A stable covered with sheep’s wool indicates a low value of wool
There are, for example, the interventions of British artist Jeremy Diller, who is always very interested in the local relevance of his work: on the newsreel at Berliner Platz, local news is mixed with reports on disarmament from Germany – news from 100 years ago, some of which seem so contemporary that Its age is hardly noticeable. To the east, in the so-called “green centre,” sheep graze in a pasture – surrounded by a new development area, next to the playground. It’s a project by artist Folke Köbberling: the sheep’s wool-covered stable is not only a strange creature that has fallen over time, but also aims to signal the devaluation of this natural resource: you can still get twelve cents for one kilogram of raw wool. Recruiting 20 locals to help care for the sheep makes the idea of a real community project more credible than the stand-alone installations.
There are smaller interventions like Rodin’s plastic sculpture one and a half times in size from the Folkwang collection, which Iranian artist Fari Shams has supplemented with virtual reality goggles. or the fabric-covered holograms of Gursky student Isabella Fürnkäs, which are on display in a tattoo shop and Gothic hardware store, among other places. The most detailed, such as “Asia Restaurant,” an immersive video and audio installation by Essen’s Taiwanese choreographer Fang Yun Lu: The story of four Vietnamese immigrants in Germany and Taiwan told in an abandoned Chinese restaurant.
At the end of the project, a train will depart from Hagen to Essen on August 6. Briton Turner Award winner Simon Starling, 2005 With his acclaimed ‘Shedboatshed’ converted from a hut into a boat, builds on the legacy of the Osthaus with this tour. Architect Bruno Taut commissioned a meeting place called “Stadtkrone” on behalf of Karl Ernst Osthaus. A colony for artists and the Folkwang school were to be established next to his home in Hohenhof in Hagen. The plans were not implemented. Starling took wood from the small forest now in Hohenhof, from which coal is now mined. According to Starling’s plan, it will be used to power a 1920s steam locomotive that recreates the transition from Hagen to Essen 100 years ago.
“Folkwang and the City” is a successful project. The relationship between the museum’s inventory and the city as the starting point and place for all projects and their social ramifications is surprisingly compelling. And perhaps the circular aisle at Berliner Platz will still be more idyllic in the end.
Folkwang and the city Until August 7 in City Nord, Essen.