in Influences | 28 APR 11
Featured in
Issue 1

Adam Szymczyk: ‘Kunsthalle’

In this series, frieze d/e asks artists, curators or writers to reflect upon one word and its impact

in Influences | 28 APR 11

Johann Jakob Stehlin-Burckhardt, Draft for the interior of the skylighted room, 1868/72

In spring 1868 the architect Johann Jakob Stehlin-Burckhardt submitted his competition design for a Kunsthalle in Basel. As a motto, he chose the opening lines of Goethes poem Künstlers Morgenlied (The Artists Morning Song, 1773): ‘Der Tempel ist euch aufgebaut/ Ihr hohen Musen all’ (The temple is built for you / All you high Muses). This quotation in support of Stehlin-Burckhardts neo-classical project reveals what he thought the competition jury would expect the Kunsthalle to be: the permanent home of the Muses, in line with the Enlightenment idea of the museum as temple of the arts and the artist as divine creator. The innovative, secular and pragmatic idea of the Kunsthalle  as a multifunctional building for temporary exhibitions of contemporary art, complete with artist studios and a restaurant  was dressed in the high poetic language of museum allegory. This language must have already sounded clichéd, if not obsolete, in 1868 the year the Basel ribbon-makers and dyers went on strike; one year before the Basel congress of the International Workingmens Association, or the First International, took place; and three years before Gustave Courbet joined the Paris Commune. And it still feels as if the congress never took place here and the Commune never happened, when curious travellers to Basel or professional friends — many of them museum directors — ask me, So, whats on at your museum now?