Speech by Minister of State Cornelia Pieper at the opening of the exhibition “Paweł Althamer – Almech”, Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin

27.10.2011 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Dr Holtzmann,
Mr Schaub,
Gräfin von Reichenbach,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I’m delighted to be here today to open the “Paweł Althamer: Almech” exhibition.

This new work commissioned by Deutsche Guggenheim from renowned Polish artist Paweł Althamer is yet another highlight in this special German-Polish anniversary year now drawing to a close.

For this year we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Poland on Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation. With the joint declaration of 21 June 2011 and a cooperation programme encompassing almost 100 joint projects, our two countries have reaffirmed their desire to further expand and intensify their collaboration.

The fact that this year we’re also celebrating the anniversaries of the founding of the German Polish Youth Office and Foundation for German-Polish Cooperation is clear proof that this collaboration is not confined just to the political sphere. It’s something that involves society at large and in which people of both nations share. This was impressively demonstrated this year by the large number of events on the German-Polish calendar with a civil society or cultural focus.

Anyone wanting to build the future of course needs to know about the past. The exhibition now on show at the Martin-Gropius-Bau – “Side by Side. Poland – Germany. A 1000 Years of Art and History” – evokes the highly chequered history of our relations. But it also shows what a wonderful role art can play in bringing people together.

Shaping a common future – that can only be “work in progress”. Like with Paweł Althamer’s work for Deutsche Guggenheim. For “Almech” is an “exhibition in progress”, which acquires form and flesh from the interactions between the artist, the exhibition visitors and the staff of Deutsche Bank and Deutsche Guggenheim. The focus is not on passive reflection, but on active participation and creative sharing.

To encounter oneself and others, to get to know and engage with them – that’s also the philosophy behind our cultural relations and education policy. For us at the Federal Foreign Office this is all about reciprocity, exchange and cooperation. Everything we do in this area is intended not as some kind of one-way street but as an exercise in bridge-building that serves to bring people together.

Right here and now we have an impressive example of how this can work. This exhibition venue is linked in a very tangible way with a plastics factory in Warsaw’s Wesoła district. The venue is now the “Almech” production site – and the factory in Poland belonging to the artist’s father is now “Deutsche Guggenheim”. In this way the ties with our neighbouring Poland can be literally seen and felt.

As with his other works, Althamer goes here beyond the purely abstract. This latest project combines the different worlds of “factory”, “museum” and “bank” in a comment on contemporary social and economic realities. By inviting visitors to reflect on and discuss such realities, the exhibition generates ideas for a forward-looking partnership agenda.

Deutsche Guggenheim itself is a byword for fruitful cooperation between culture and business, between Deutsche Bank and the Salomon Guggenheim Foundation. Since 1997 its remarkably diverse modern and contemporary art shows have since 1997 done much to establish Berlin as widely acclaimed exhibition venue. With this new work by one of today’s most prominent artists, that trend is set to continue.

I wish the exhibition great success and many enthusiastic visitors. And I hope you will all spend a very enjoyable evening here in the “Almech factory’s Berlin branch”.

Thank you very much.

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