Description (from their website)
“Founded in the early 1990s by Klaus Biesenbach and a group of young art enthusiasts, the institution is located on the site of a abandoned margarine factory in Berlin’s Mitte district. It symbolizes, perhaps more than any other institution, the city’s development into a center of contemporary art in the decade after the fall of the Wall. The listed front building dating from the second half of the 18th century and the late-19th-century factory to its rear were extensively restored with assistance from the urban heritage preservation office Städtebaulicher Denkmalschutz and the foundations Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin (German Federal Cultural Foundation) and Stiftung Denkmalschutz, during the course of the 1990’s. Two new buildings were also added to the complex: the Café Bravo pavilion designed by the American artist Dan Graham and architecturally realized in collaboration with Hanne Nalbach, and a classical white cube exhibition hall from the Berlin architect Hans Düttmann. The refurbished KW was inaugurated in fall 1999 and possesses some 2,000 square meters of exhibition space extending over five floors, six artists’ studios in the front side wings, and one of the most striking courtyards in central Berlin.
This unique site in combination with an ambitious artistic program rapidly established KW’s name as a center of visual art. The standing of KW was further enhanced by its partnerships with a number of international institutions – with particularly close links being maintained with P.S.1/MoMA in New York – and by external projects carried out in collaboration with the Venice Biennale and the documenta X.
With the curators Klaus Biesenbach and Anselm Franke KW presented the first solo shows or major new projects of outstanding international artists such as Doug Aitken, Dinos & Jake Chapman, Paul Pfeiffer, Santiago Sierra, Jane & Louise Wilson, and Keren Cytter. Furthermore, KW introduced emerging new artists from Berlin and elsewhere in Germany to a wider public. Thematic shows such as Stand der Dinge (2000), Territories (2003), Regarding Terror: The RAF Exhibition (2005), Into Me / Out of Me (2006), and History Will Repeat Itself (2007) have made KW known internationally.
Since 2007, Susanne Pfeffer is curator at KW. Her highly regarded first exhibition Joe Coleman. Internal Digging introduced the American painter for the first time in a large solo exhibition. In addition to presenting artists such as Lutz Mommartz, Ricarda Roggan, and Wolfgang Breuer in first solo exhibitions, she curated the international group shows … 5 minutes later, Geschlossene Gesellschaft, and VORSPANNKINO.
KW is run by the nonprofit association Kunst-Werke Berlin e.V., which is structured on the US model. While receiving an annual subsidy from Berlin’s Senate Department of Science, Research and Culture, the association at the same time relies on the acquisition of third-party funding in order to realize larger projects. The cultural program of KW is further supported by its patrons’ society Freundeskreis der Kunst-Werke Berlin (Gesellschaft für zeitgenössische Kunst, GZK, www.kw-freunde.de), which was set up in 1996.
The Berlin Biennale is separately financed by the German Federal Cultural Foundation.
In 2003 the event was designated a “cultural beacon” by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, a distinction guaranteeing funding over a five-year period to projects considered to be exemplary representatives of the spectrum of contemporary art. In view of the more secure financial basis for the 4th and 5th biennials in 2006 and 2008, the organization of the Berlin Biennale has been restructured. Since 2004, KW Institute for Contemporary Art is the main organizer of the event, and not just a venue and partner. In 2008 the funding was renewed by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, securing the 6th and 7th Berlin Biennale.”
Most of our personal comments were erased when the website that originally hosted this project was updated. In 2011, three years after our visit to KW, I remember the space hosting its part of a huge exhibition, which I believe was the Berlin Biennale.