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The history of KAI 10 | ARTHENA FOUNDATION begins with the vision of the Oldenburg entrepreneur Monika Schnetkamp to establish a new and independent space for contemporary art. In 2018 the non-profit Arthena Foundation that she founded along with the exhibition space it supports, KAI 10 in Düsseldorf, celebrated their tenth anniversary. 

KAI 10 | ARTHENA FOUNDATION is a non-commercial art institution without an own collection. The exhibition space is located in a former warehouse from the 1950s on Kaistrasse 10, one of the few historical buildings remaining in Düsseldorf’s Media Harbour. With a floor space of more than 600 square metres, it provides an ideal setting for the presentation and realization of artistic ideas. KAI 10 is open to the public free of charge at regular hours and is thus conceived to supplement the other museums and art institutions in the region. Since its opening in September 2008, more than 200 artists have exhibited at KAI 10. World-renowned names are presented next to not-yet-established artistic positions, to be discovered time and again, not least in the local scene of the Rhineland. Numerous artists of the younger generation were featured at KAI 10 before becoming widely known over the last years.

KAI 10 | ARTHENA FOUNDATION’s supra-regional and international recognition is fostered by activities and projects taking place outside the Kaistrasse venue. One highlight to date was the participation in the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. In the context of the biennial’s Eventi Collaterali, the Arthena Foundation presented a much-noticed solo show by Thomas Zipp. The exhibition Backdoor Fantasies of 2014 was staged both in our own facilities and in various buildings and outposts of the Media Harbour. Cooperations with renowned partner institutions have increasingly taken place, nationally and abroad, for example with the Kunsthalle Nürnberg (2016, 2020), the Goethe Institute Paris (2017), the KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2017), Building Bridges Art Exchange in Los Angeles (2017) or Marta Herford (2019). In 2017 KAI 10, in cooperation with the Collaborative Research Center Affective Societies at Freie Universität Berlin, developed the much-discussed exhibition Affect Me. Social Media Images in Art. Together with the Kulturkreis der deutschen Wirtschaft im BDI e. V. the internationally renowned ars viva prize was awarded at KAI 10 in October 2018, in connection with an exhibition of the awardees.

Promoting young art historians and critics is also of great importance to the Arthena Foundation. The mediation and interpretation of art took centre stage in two projects with students of the Cologne University and the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf: the Kunstkritik Labor provided young journalists the opportunity to learn the basic skills of art journalism under the supervision of renowned authors and has taken place at KAI 10 twice already. As an institution with a lean organizational structure that is none-the-less internationally oriented, KAI 10 | ARTHENA FOUNDATION stands for an intensive engagement with contemporary art in direct contact with its visitors.

About KAI 10’s Programme

Today’s world of art is extremely diverse. Individual trends and tendencies seldom become dominant enough to supersede other existing movements entirely. Exhibitions at KAI 10 attempt to reflect this great diversity, while focussing on thematic group exhibitions that create a dialogue between various artistic positions. Each show raises the question on how a connecting theme or specific discourse can resonate through the works on display and also through the particular way they are staged in a given space. To this end, the artists are often involved in the conception of an exhibition. Some artists could even be seen in the role of a stage designer or director of comprehensive overall stagings.

Exhibitions at KAI 10 revolve around the pressing questions of our times and recent societal developments along with rather fundamental queries, raised time and again, concerning artistic processes and media-inherent questions.

Several exhibitions were dedicated to current manifestations of Surrealism and the evocative metamorphoses of the world of things. Another conceptual focus is on the lasting topicality of classic art forms like painting or drawing. The strong contemporary relevance of KAI 10’s programme also becomes apparent in its reflections on the use and circulation of images today, for instance, with respect to social media and their political implications. Likewise, interactions and correlations with other cultural disciplines have repeatedly played a role, such as a comparison between the visual arts and design.

Notwithstanding that the debate on art is increasingly taking place on the Internet, the physical encounter with works of art remains of vital importance. KAI 10 understands itself as a place where an intellectual access to art is enabled directly via its sensual experience. The exhibition format permits the in-depth exploration of an artwork in its full complexity. In a direct encounter with art, not only the sensual but also the informative potential of speculative artistic thinking can develop most effectively.

KAI 10 further promotes a lively “dialogue” between art and its audience through a number of accompanying activities. A continually growing list of publications comprises more than 37 titles, which are as individual and particular in their design and content as is each exhibition. In addition, an extensive supporting programme is organized for each exhibition. Free-of-charge guided tours provide further conceptual tools allowing our visitors to engage more deeply with the works on display. Artists’ talks offer the possibility to meet with the creative heads behind the projects. Lectures or discussions with critics, curators or experts invited from various scientific fields as well as commented film screenings permit a comprehensive examination of specific contextual questions. All these events are aimed at nurturing an intensive and direct contact with the visitors. Above all, however, they are meant to promote an intensified engagement with contemporary art, reaching beyond different views and knowledge horizons.

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