Over 50 years the Goethe Institut London has contributed to the UK’s cultural life, initiating, hosting and supporting thousands of German – and Anglo-German -- projects. This summer alone a Tino Sehgal installation is being created in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern. The Barbican hosts Bauhaus: Art as Life, the biggest UK exhibition of the design school’s work in a generation. And German artists Thomas Schütte and Hans-Peter Feldmann have shows at the Serpentine Gallery. All these projects are supported by the Institut, which is also celebrating both the anniversary and the reopening of its Exhibition Road headquarters with a bold and imaginative original work by Gloria Zein.
On Sunday 20th May the Institut throws open its doors to the public. Londoners are invited to discover its stunning new library and reading rooms, to snuggle up with a book in the intimate reading spaces and to watch German television in the TV-corner. Visitors can also see the state-of-the-art classrooms while enjoying German wine and Warsteiner beer, and listening to special guests Silbermond.
In addition Londoners will have the chance to experience the specially commissioned installation by Zein, winner of the 2011 Cass Prize for Sculpture and profiled in this month’s artist interview. Zein’s three-part ‘intervention’ involves large parts of the fine Kensington building, responding to its architecture as well as to the Institut’s structure and identity. The first part is in the main stairway which connects the different departments to the outside world. A remarkable painted mural rises in the stairwell, its bold colours determined by a nine-sided dice, linking the nine institutes of the North Western Europe to their regional headquarters in London. Viewers ‘complete’ the work as they climb the stairs, as if walking into a sculpture. On the rear terrace Zein’s second creation is a pair of flowing sculptures, drawing attention to the cultural and promotional work which flows out of the Institut building. The third element -- inspired by interviews with the Institut’s 30 staff members – is a series of miniature sculptures at different work stations, some of which can be seen on Sunday.
Since 1962 the Goethe Institut has introduced British audiences to the work of many of Germany’s leading contemporary artists including Pina Bausch, Gustav Metzger, Gregor Schneider, Thomas Schütte, Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky and Ricarda Roggan. The Institut ‘has been a focus of contemporary German culture in the UK for the past 50 years,’ according to director Sabine Hentzsch. Its success over five decades has been due to ‘the constant dialogue and collaboration with artists, authors, musicians, film-makers, translators, creative artists, German teachers and course participants.’ Its efforts – along with the rise of Berlin as a European cultural centre (and boredom with the old nationalistic stereotypes) – have strengthen old bonds and created dynamic new links across Europe.
On Sunday 20th May come and celebrate the links, take part in the dialogue and join in the birthday party.