Arts Academy of Dusseldorf
The Mark of Autonomy
The crowds of visitors flocking to the Annual “Tours” are almost as large as the throngs that line up at peak hours at the Louvre in Paris or at the MoMA in New York. Indeed, the Arts Academy of Dusseldorf is a magnet for artists and the general public.
The Arts Academy of Dusseldorf – who would not think of the legendary Fluxus performances and events of the early 60s or the furor over Joseph Beuys, who shook the institution to its core in the early 70s? And who would not immediately recall the academy’s pivotal role in establishing photography as an art form? Prestigious examples such as Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth all graduated from the class taught by Bernd and Hilla Becher, who held Germany’s first photography professorship.
A Counterweight to New YorkAll of these events built up the Arts Academy of Dusseldorf’s reputation. The fact that artists associated with the Academy were selected to represent Germany at the Venice Biennale international mega-exhibit more and more frequently also bears witness to the Academy’s outstanding position. “The most important generation of German artists worked in the Dusseldorf/Cologne area since 1960. Famous galleries from these cities operated worldwide; art fairs took place on a regular basis and many international artists were drawn to this place. Dusseldorf thus became the only counterweight to New York in terms of contemporary art,” Robert Fleck, Professor of Art and Public Space at the Academy, writes in “Die Geschichte der Kunstakademie Düsseldorf seit 1945” (History of the Dusseldorf Arts Academy since 1945). The magnificent volume gives an account of the cultural policy and cultural significance of this extraordinary institution. The list of professors and teaching staff alone reads like a who’s who of the key artists and personalities who influenced the evolution of Western art.
Yet the Academy also had its share of challenging times. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the vibrant art scene in Dusseldorf and Cologne came crashing down at the same time that Berlin’s magnetic pull started to grow. It was only after the upheavals of the early 90s that the creation of the exhibition infrastructure necessary for young art began – with places like the Kunsthalle, the museum kunstpalast, Kunstverein, K21 Ständehaus (Kunstsammlung NRW) and KIT (Kunst im Tunnel).