On arrival at the city’s main train station, evidence of the Skulptur Projekte is easy to find – adverts for bicycle and bus tours, discounts for visitors – and indeed, you quickly (or I did as I tried to find my internet-booked accommodation on my smartphone) almost stumble across artworks. As a dedicated ‘art-tourist’, here for the Projekte, one’s first port of call is the main information hub in the LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur, to collect the all important printed may and guide. A fairly compact city, centred on a mediaeval core (albeit heavily reconstructed following the Second World War), ringed by a landscaped ‘promenade’ (the line of the old city walls) the map is an easy way of orientating you, of planning routes through the city to find the various sculptures. It’s also an interface between you and the city – marked on it are other local landmarks – the cathedral, the lake – the sort of thing you might go and visit anyway as a tourist (indeed I did!).
I visited the fifth iteration of the Skulptur Projekte in September 2107. This citywide sculpture exhibition takes place every ten years across the city of Munster (and in 2017, had a satellite in the neighbouring city of Marl). Works are installed (and created for) public spaces (indoor and outdoor) across the city. In 2017, this ranged from a disused ice-rink on the outskirts, to works set in the exhibition spaces of the city’s main art gallery the LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur.
The Projekte’s beginnings are interesting and relevant to its contemporary existence – its origins are in a programme of outreach devised following the outcry at the placement of a kinetic sculpture by George Rickey. From this has grown a 100 day long international exhibition which has a significant budget, and forms a key part of the image the City of Munster (population 310,039) projects to the world, to tourists and investors.
One notable aspect of the Projekte is that after each iteration, a small number of artworks are purchased by the city (although ownership may rest with various organisations within it) and many of these remain on public display in their original locations (although with some exceptions, and in some cases in a different form to the original display). These artworks (presented in 2017 as the ‘public collection’) presented on the official map, and in the catalogue (and in some cases brought out of storage specially) have an interesting role to play.
A final element is the choice of artists – with some artists selected to appear on more than one occasion, others working on projects which take place over the decade-long span between each iteration of the Projekte.
How do we engage with the Skulptur Projekte
• What is the role of the map
• What about the eventness of it? The ‘city dressing’, the extra activities?
• As a major international event – how is our engagement different on the ground to its reception as transmitted by international media?
• How important is it that we engage physically, bodily? Through walking, exploring, finding, navigating, getting lost, taking time?
The ‘Public Collection’
• Who owns the work?
• How did these works get chosen/come to survive?
• How have they been accepted by the people of Munster
• What is the relationship between them and the latest edition of works
• What about other art works in the city?
• How well have they stood the test of time (physically, and as – given that SPM aims to present a snapshot of a particular view of what is best in sculpture, as sculpture – are they still important artworks?)
How does the Skulptur Projekte ‘inhabit’ the city?
• What does it mean for the people who live here?
How does the Skulptur Projekte ‘interrogate’ the city? What questions does it ask of
• The city authorities
• The urban environment
• The forces of capital/development
• The inhabitants themselves
• The city’s history?
How does it ask these?
How does the Skulptur Projekte change the way we experience the city?
• For visitors?
• For locals?
• How do we come to understand Munster as a place, as a land(city)scape?
How does the Skulptur Projekte change the perception of Munster?
• What kind of city is it really?
• How much/to what extent can the image projected be sustained?
• Is it all surface? If not – how and where is it punctured?
How does the Skulptur Projekte sit in time? With a ten year recurrence and a duration of less than a year what can this tell us about the state of the city?
• How does this influence its reception by locals and wider audiences?
• Spaces have been used over and over – what does this tell us?
How does the Skulptur Projekte sit in space?
• How might meaning accumulate in some of the spaces which have been used?
• How does SPM change the way spaces are experienced, used, understood?
• What problems does it cause?