Remembering Walther Rathenau: Sophie von Hellermann at Schloss Freienwalde
In 1909 the Weimar statesman and aesthete Walther Rathenau acquired and restored the Prussian royal palace at Bad Freienwalde outside of Berlin. Rathenau’s assassination by far-right extremists in 1922 renders him a martyred icon of German democracy. At the time of his murder he had been Foreign Minister for only three months. Today, the Schloss at Freienwalde is a museum dedicated to the life of Rathenau. To mark 100 years since Rathenau's assassination, urKultur together with Oxford University’s Jewish Country Houses Project has commissioned a new site-specific artwork in the Schloss by the painter, Sophie von Hellermann. Using her characteristic loose and lively brush strokes, von Hellermann is painting both on canvases, as well as directly onto the walls bringing some of the lost spirit back to the Schloss. Contemporary photographs give a strong sense of the Schloss interior during Rathenau's lifetime. Starting from these images, von Hellermann’s work will hint towards both the life once lived there and a possible future. The installation will be open to the public from 25 June and a parallel show at gallery Wentrup in Berlin opens in July. This project is supported by TORCH.
Client: Schloss Freienwalde / Jewish Country Houses
Role: Curator (Ruth Ur)
Date: July 2022 (Permanent installation)
Historic photographs from Schloss Freienwalde
Paintings and drawings by Sophie von Hellermann
© Julia Kaschlinski
Ali Fitzgerald Paints Humboldthain
S-Bahnhof Humboldthain, Berlin
urKultur was commissioned to develop a concept for the upgrading of S-Bahnhof Humboldthain in the centre of Berlin. The overground station, built in 1935, is located beside the highly popular Volkspark Humboldthain. We asked Ali Fitzgerald to work with us on this unique commission. Ali has brought her hallmark wit and elegance to this commission, which celebrates the area known as Humboldthain as experienced through the four seasons. According to Ali, "I loved sprinkling the murals with little details—because they’re so accessible to people, I wanted subway riders to be able to spend some time looking at and enjoying them. I drew a lot of animal scenes at child height, so that kids could inspect and discover them. It’s so nice to hear a child shout, `Eichhörnchen!´ and get excited while looking at a painting. I also shifted things a bit as I went. So many older Wedding residents told me that they loved the murals, so I added extra scenes of elders enjoying activities like water aerobics or playing cards."
Client: DB Station&Service
Role: Curator (Ruth Ur & Julia Kaschlinski)
Date: 2022 (Permanent installation)
© Herzog & de Meuron
Art Commission for New Library
National Library of Israel, Jerusalem
In 2022 the National Library of Israel will move into its state-of-the-art new premises in Jerusalem, designed by star architects Herzog de Meuron. The new building marks the end of a 130 year period in the NLI’s history and the start of a new period in which the library promises to be much more than a library. New interactive and exhibition spaces are planned to engage not only scholars, but also tourists and school children. urKultur has been commissioned to work with the NLI team to develop an artistic component which will involve audiences around the world in the relaunch.
Client: National Library of Israel
Role: Curator (Ruth Ur & Yigal Schleifer)
© Jörg Gläscher
Sol Calero Takes Over Exit Friedrichstraße, 2021
S-Bahnhof Friedrichstraße, Berlin
For the second edition of Exit Friedrichstraße, UrKultur and DB Station&Service invited Berlin-based artist Sol Calero was invited to create a new commission for Exit Friedrichstraße. Sol's installation presents two views of the same scene: the view through a window looking out to the mountains and the sun; and a view from the outside of the house looking inwards. The view is inspired by the artist’s visits to Los Roques, an archipelago north of Caracas, Venezuela where Calero grew up. The archipelago bears the legacies of colonialism, and the picturesque houses – such as the one depicted here – present a combination of European, indigenous South American, and Afro-Caribbean influences. Calero uses the hybrid architecture and its luscious setting to create a vision of paradise in the middle of Berlin; a vision that in the context of Covid-related travel restrictions became even more tantalising and unreachable. At the same time, the fragmented image, with its vivid and alluring colours and hints of recognisable forms, is destined to remain a puzzle, challenging us to decipher what we see and desire. This edition of Exit Friedrichstraße was realised in cooperation with Villeroy & Boch and Weltkunst magazine.
Client: DB Station&Service AG
Role: Curator & Commissioner
Date: 2021 (Temporary installation, still on view)
© Ruth Ur
Contemporary Artists & Historic Houses
European Jewish Country House Project
urKultur is partnering with the University of Oxford on a research programme led by the historian Professor Abigail Green. The Jewish Country House Project aims to establish Jewish country houses as a focus for research, a site of European memory, and a significant aspect of European Jewish heritage and material culture. urKultur is working with the University of Oxford and consortium partners to develop a series of artistic commissions which will help open the subject to a wider audience. The first commission, already awarded a Creative Industries Seed Fund Award, is a new body of work by prizewinning architectural photographer Hélène Binet. Additional commissions are planned.
Client: University of Oxford
Role: Curator, New Commissions
© Konrad von Bethmann
Discovering the Lost World of Salonica
Curated talks & tours
The Jewish Museum Frankfurt commissioned urKultur to curate a 4-day visit to the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki for their patrons and donors. Through a series of tailor-made lectures, interviews, and walks, the group was given an insight into both the Jewish and multicultural culture that characterised Salonica/Thessaloniki over the centuries, and that was almost entirely destroyed during the Holocaust. Meetings with the Mayor Yiannis Boutaris and President of the Jewish Community, David Saltiel, as well as with eye-witnesses and students, provided unique insights and perspectives.
Client: Jewish Museum Frankfurt
Role: Curator & Producer
© Jörg Gläscher
Launching New Art Space, Exit Friedrichstraße, 2019
Slavs & Tatars appointed for new public art commission
In 2019 urKultur was commissioned by DB Station&Service to develop a concept for a space in Bahnhof Friedrichstraße referred to as Exit Friedrichstraße. Since the space includes two walls that cannot be seen simultaneously, the concept we developed was to invite a dialogue between the two spaces - either between two artists or between two works. Each commission is temporary. The first commissioned work was by Berlin-based art collective Slavs&Tatars. Known for their love of word-plays and aphorisms, the artists used ready-made tiles to spell out a dictum by the German philosopher Johann Georg Hamann across the two sites: “Für die Langweile des Publikums von einem Liebhaber der langen Weile” (“For the boredom of the public, from a lover of boredom”)
Client: DB Station&Service AG
Role: Curator & Commissioner
© Christian Werner and Jörg Gläscher
Christoph Niemann's Pixelated Portrait of Wannsee
S-Bahnhof Wannsee, Berlin
'Wannsee' is an 80m long – permanent – site-specific art commission curated by urKultur for Deutsche Bahn at Wannsee Station, Berlin. The artwork by Germany's leading illustrator Christoph Niemann represents his first major public work. The work presents well known and celebrated features of Wannsee - the lake, bathers, the Liebermann Villa, but also its darker side, the House of the Wannsee Conference. Die Zeit Magazine dedicated a 6 page feature to this commission, the link to which can be found below, together with selected articles, and a lovely short film by the artist.
Client: DB Station & Service AG
Role: Curator & Producer
Date: 2018 (Permanent installation)
Press: Die Zeit
Invitation to meet German President, F.-W. Steinmeier.
Ruth Ur and Edmund De Waal meet with the German Federal President
As part of a series called Begegnung at Bellevue (Encounters at Bellevue), Ruth Ur and the artist as well as author of the bestselling novel "Hare With Amber Eyes", Edmund de Waal, were invited to meet with the German Federal President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The subject of the meeting was an exchange of ideas and perspectives on the role of art in processes of commemoration and remembrance, as well as in the strengthening of civil society.
© Efrat Kowalsky and Heide von Beckerath
New Historical Museum for Thessaloniki
Museological Concept for Museum of Jewish Life and the Holocaust
urKultur was commissioned to produce the Programmatic and Museological Feasibility Study for the planned 6,000 sqm Museum of Jewish Life and the Holocaust in Thessaloniki. This project represents one of the biggest and most culturally sensitive projects under development in Greece today. urKultur produced the feasibility study, working together with financial consultants and the architects Efrat Kowalsky & Heide von Beckerath. We were also part of the team that presented the concept to the donors, the German Government and Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
Client: Jewish Community Thessaloniki
Role: Author of Feasibility Study (Ruth Ur & Stefanie Oswalt)
© David Christian
Buckingham Palace Illuminated for UK&India 2017
Design by Studio Carrom
Ruth Ur was commissioned by Buckingham Palace to develop ideas for a reception, hosted by HM The Queen, to launch the UK India Year of Culture. Ruth came up with the idea to illuminate the facade with a work of art. She invited all-female, UK/India based design Studio Carrom to develop an image to celebrate the unique relationship between the two countries. This was the first-ever art projection covering the entire facade of the palace. It was a complex commission both because of the technical requirements, but also because of political sensitivities.
Client: Buckingham Palace
Role: Curator for British Council and in cooperation with the Indian High Commission, London
© Arne Krüger
New Directions for Historic Painter's Villa
Liebermann Villa, Wannsee
The Liebermann Villa is a small treasure of a museum on the shores of Lake Wannsee. It is the former home of German Jewish impressionist artist Max Liebermann, and the museum is dedicated to his life and work. Ruth Ur worked with the team of the Villa over a period of 18 months to develop new engagement strategies and events to draw in younger audiences, forge international links, develop new funding streams, and to help put Berlin's best kept secret on the map.
Client: Liebermann Villa Berlin
Role: Advisor & Special Projects
Date: 2017 - 2018