Kunsthalle Bern to Hold Benefit Auction in September

BERN – On the 13th of September 2008, Kunsthalle Bern will auction off works by a total of 72 artists who, in the course of their careers, participated in exhibitions at Kunsthalle Bern and defined crucial moments and tendencies in art history. The proceeds will be dedicated in full to Kunsthalle Bern’s ambitious programme for the coming years. Thus, the benefit auction at Kunsthalle Bern is not only a singular opportunity to purchase a unique work of art – the purchase of a work during the benefit auction is also tantamount to a direct contribution to Kunsthalle Bern’s exhibition programme.

Before the auction, from the 16th of August until the 10th of September, the works will be on exhibition at Kunsthalle Bern under the title NOLEFTOVERS. The roster of participants encompasses young international and Bernese artists like Pamela Rosenkranz, Ivan Grubanov, Roberto Cuoghi or Urs Zahn, as well as established locals such as Franz Gertsch and Balthasar Burkhard. Most of the artists represented at the benefit auction, however, are prominent members of the international art scene, including, for example, Raymond Pettibon, Robert Gober, Candida Höfer, Thomas Struth, Julian Opie, Georg Baselitz, John M. Armleder and Luc Tuymans – who created a new work specifically for the auction. Consequently, the exhibition will function as a retrospective, a look back into the history of exhibitions at Kunsthalle Bern – but it will also continue this history, since most of the artists donated recent works. Kunsthalle Bern has often been the starting point of an international career, which is one of the reasons why many famous artists happily donated a work. All the works can be viewed online at http://benefizauktion.kunsthalle-bern.ch/

Kunsthalle Bern’s history began when the Bernese artist association (GSMBA) organised a five-day costume party in the Reithalle in Bern and in the streets of the town. Simultaneously, an auction of donated artworks was conducted in order to raise the necessary start-up capital to convince the official realm and the public to build a Kunsthalle for contemporary art exhibitions (building activities started in 1917).

Throughout its history, Kunsthalle Bern has had the privilege as well as the ingenuity and the audacity to exhibit works by an extraordinarily impressive range of artists. Kunsthalle Bern offered a platform to some of Switzerland’s most significant artists, from Ferdinand Hodler to Franz Gertsch, and it introduced internationally wellknown artists like Edvard Munch, Jesus Rafael Soto, Luc Tuymans and Jutta Koether to a Swiss audience. However, Kunsthalle Bern was and is not only the home of various groundbreaking and bold shows or projects (and there have been plenty of those, from the first packaging of a public building by Christo over the seminal exhibition “When Attitudes Become Form” and the show with Sol Lewitt’s wall paintings up to Allan Kaprow’s retrospective last year). Kunsthalle Bern is also an institution which, under its various directors, has always striven relentlessly to offer artists a passionate commitment to their works, to challenge the visitors and at the same time provide them the best possible conditions for experiencing contemporary art.

The autonomy and independence of Kunsthalle Bern’s programme from all kinds of external influences is legendary and cherished. We want to guarantee it now and preserve it for as long as possible into the future. The benefit auction at Kunsthalle Bern serves this aim, for in the cultural condition of today, which, according to Jeremy Rifkin, reduces every (artistic) experience to a commodity one has to pay for, a new tendency emerges, which also threatens Kunsthalle Bern: the tendency to turn museums and galleries into vehicles for public-relations stunts. This is achieved by using corporate logic to marginalize and suppress the real function of these cultural institutions and exploiting their social status for short-term gains from populist programming. Indeed, art still – and perhaps increasingly – has to defend its very right to even exist without being instrumentalised. The necessity of offering culture free spaces and moments, in which society can be confronted with a critical distance towards its own values, seems all the more urgent.

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