Museum Abteiberg

Temporary re-opening of the Städtisches Museum in Mönchengladbach
Exhibition project at Museum Abteiberg and the historical Städtisches Museum, Bismarckstraße 97

September 13, 2017 to February 18, 2018  

Opening: In the historical Museum Bismarckstraße 97, Wednesday, September 13, 7:00 pm

On September 13, 1967, Johannes Cladders opened his tenure as the new director of the Städtisches Museum in Mönchengladbach with Joseph Beuys’ first museum exhibition. From then on, the institution was distinguished by a legendary program that fused an expanded notion of art with visions of a new kind of museum. The Beuys exhibition was soon followed by early exhibitions of Carl Andre (1968), Bernd and Hilla Becher (1968), George Brecht / Robert Filliou (1969), Stanley Brouwn (1970), Marcel Broodthaers (1971), Daniel Buren (1971,1975), Hanne Darboven (1969), Braco Dimitrijevic (1975), Hans Hollein (1970), Richard Long (1970), Palermo (1973), Gerhard Richter (1974), Ulrich Rückriem (1973), Lawrence Weiner (1973) and many others. The program ended with a 1978  exhibition of work by Jannis Kounellis in the old building, and pointed the way for Museum Abteiberg, which opened in 1982.

Now, exactly 50 years later, the exhibition VON DA AN (FROM THEN ON): SPACES, WORKS, VISUALIZATIONS FROM THE ANTI-MUSEUM 1967–1978 looks at precisely this history. With documents and objects, reconstructions and re-performances, works from the museum collection and, not least, the historical spaces itself, the show attempts to visualize the groundbreaking ideas behind the program at that time. The title VON DA AN (FROM THEN ON) draws on Daniel Buren's famous title "À partir de là" for his 1975 exhibition, which he conceived as a retrospective of the Mönchengladbach museum’s exhibition history. Once again, VON DA AN serves as a commentary reflecting on forms of museum presentation and the institution of the museum itself, also against the backdrop of a politicized time.
One of the project’s key goals is to communicate the radical, institution-critical concepts of past times to today’s audience: the questioning of museums and art history, the phenomenological, structural and anthropological ideas informing art in the 1960s and 1970s and the resulting vision of a new kind of identity for museums. Cladders coined the term “anti-museum” to explain it and, as a museum director, worked closely and in parallel with artists including Beuys, Buren and Broodthaers (whose Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles opened in Brussels in 1968 with a speech by Cladders).

The empty original rooms of the Altes Museum in Mönchengladbach are a unique venue for the look at the past, present and future of the museum as institution. Neither Museum Abteiberg, nor any other contemporary museum building could offer insight into the twentieth century spaces where those specific, visionary museum concepts came into being. It is a timely experiment, as international researchers have become extremely interested in the history of the current museum landscape. 
The project combines different levels of representation; the spaces themselves – both in the old museum and in the Museum Abteiberg, the exhibition’s second venue – play a key role in the visualization. Original works, audio-, film- and photo documentation, and numerous previously unpublished archival books complement another main focus of the exhibition: Johannes Cladders’ legendary 35 “cassette catalogues,” which Cladders produced from 1967 onwards. Based on boxes made by the Fluxus artists and Marcel Duchamp, they were created as an experimental medium for exhibition visitors: the cassette catalogues were always published in a small edition of 1 to 660 copies, undermined linear reading and encouraged the audience to cultivate their own, creative take on the work. They usually sold out on the night of the opening.
The concept for this retrospective exhibition was developed as a collaboration between Susanne Titz, art historian Susanne Rennert and artist Olivier Foulon. Daniel Buren, Braco Dimitrijevic and Richard Long are involved in the re-performances produced especially for the current exhibition. Young artists will reactivate the museum festivals tradition in the course of the exhibition, with programs on November 19 and February 18, 2018. These are complemented by a number of guided tours, lectures and discussions, which will be announced in a separate program.

The exhibition is accompanied by a brochure and will be followed by a multi-year desideratum of the research: a major publication documenting the Mönchengladbach exhibition history between 1967 and 1978. The publication, which is edited by Susanne Rennert, was made possible with generous support from the Landschaftsverband Rheinland (Rhineland Regional Association).

The project as a whole is funded by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation), Kunststiftung NRW (NRW Arts Foundation), State of North Rhine-Westfalia, the Rhineland Regional Association, Museum Association (Museumsverein Mönchengladbach)  and the Hans Fries Foundation.

Please note: A combined ticket for the regular price of 8 euros / reduced admission 5 euros is available throughout the exhibition and grants admission to both venues. Others might consider joining the Mönchengladbach Museum Association (Museumsverein Mönchengladbach) as a member: those who join after September 13 pay a regular membership fee of 40 euros / 20 euros reduced for the year 2018 – and receive free, unlimited admission until the end of 2018.


Interview Marlis Grüterich mit Johannes Cladders, 1978