On March 18, 2011, with the exhibition Aufruf zur Alternative, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen inaugurates the Schmela Haus as a new project space in Düsseldorf’s historic district. Eight contemporary works by Shaina Anand, Luca Frei, Group Material, Christine & Irene Hohenbüchler, Jenny Holzer, Sora Kim, Sarah Pierce, and Kateřina Šedá reactivate the former gallery building as an exhibition space.
This exhibition, with its site-specific installations, generates a network of links between the building’s history, its singular architecture, and its contemporary utilization. In 1967, gallerist Alfred Schmela commissioned this building – later named after its proprietor – from renowned Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck. The first erected in the Federal Republic solely as a commercial art gallery, this building unites the functions of art gallery and private residence for the owner in a sophisticated way.
Even back then, the Schmela Haus was regarded as an incunabulum of contemporary architecture. Its original intention and the function of its architecture are reflected in the works featured in this exhibition. These are found in the entry area, gallery, office level, and living space. For the first time, visitors have an opportunity now to explore the entire house, experiencing it through these works of art.
In programmatic terms, the title of the exhibition Aufruf zur Alternative / Appeal for Alternatives – a citation from Joseph Beuys – stands for the works of the participating artists. All of them are characterized by a poetic engagement with society. In 1978, Beuys formulated his appeal in the Frankfurter Rundschau for measures against the economic and ecological crisis, military threats and crises of consciousness and of meaning. The works in this exhibition take up his plans for wide-ranging protest and update them artistically and sociopolitically. As a historic and social space, the Schmela Haus offers an ideal setting for their reconfiguration.