Curators resist pressure to hold sculpture show in Münster more often

German city debates whether to stage once-a-decade festival every five years


The year’s Skulptur Projekte Münster (SPM), the once-a-decade sculpture festival in the German region of North Rhine-Westphalia, will partner with a second city for the first time in its 40-year history. However, a proposal by the city of Münster to increase the frequency of the event to every five years has been quietly shelved.

Kasper König, Britta Peters and Marianne Wagner, the curators of the fifth edition of the event, which runs from 10 June to 1 October, have been looking at ways to refresh the format. Peters says that after four editions in a city of only 300,000 the team felt that “we needed to open a few windows and let in some fresh air”. There was a fear that “in an era of globalisation, always sticking to the same small city was perhaps anachronistic”. This year’s edition will include sculptures, a museum exhibition and a writer-in-residence programme in the industrial city of Marl, about 60km away.

There have been discussions within the city of Münster about holding the event every five years, probably to coincide with Documenta in Kassel, but König, who co-organised the first edition in 1977 and has overseen every edition since, is unconvinced. Peters says that while it is still unclear what exactly will happen after 2017, “there is growing understanding, including in the city, that [a five-year event] would destroy the exhibition. Ten years is a good gap, it means artists have changed, the times have changed and new ideas have had a chance to emerge.”

What the SPM can do in Marl depends on fundraising. The team is close to raising the €7.5m needed, but Peters says the environment has been “tough”, with many calls on public and private foundations to fund large projects at the Venice Biennale, which opens in May, and then Documenta a month later.

The plans for Marl are still be developed but the German artist Thomas Schütte has offered to create a sibling to his Kirschensäule (Cherry Column), installed for the 1987 edition of SPM, which is now a permanent fixture. At the time he had suggested creating a related column featuring three chunks of melon—this may now be realised in Marl. There are also hopes that the Italian artist Lara Favaretto will produce the next in her series of Momentary Monuments in both cities.

More details of the SPM—which has the theme “Out of Body, Out of Time, Out of Place”—are due to be announced this month.

So far highlights include an underwater bridge across the harbour that can be crossed by visitors—giving the appearance they are walking on water—by the Turkish artist Ayse Erkmen. The German artist Andreas Bunte is creating a digital work that will exist on visitors’ mobile phones, an evolution of project he created in Bielefeld in 2009, while Romanian artist Alexandra Pirici is placing dancers in the Hall of Peace where the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years’ War.

Peters hopes that this diversity will continue to demonstrate that, even after 40 years, SPM is still pushing at the boundaries of the definition of sculpture.