logo Donnerstag, 23.01.2014
About the NordArt

Information material

NordArt 2021

For the 22nd time, NordArt will open its gates, inviting you from 5 June to 10 October to take a trip around the world of art. There shouldn't be a second summer without art: That's why an online ticketing system directs the flow of visitors to make sure that every single guest can enjoy a carefree stay at the Kunstwerk Carlshütte.

NordArt is an anchorage for artists from all over the world and a home for international art. Here, in the huge halls of the of the historic iron foundry, one of Europe’s largest annual exhibitions of contemporary art takes place.

The break in 2020, says chief curator Wolfgang Gramm, impressively demonstrated how indispensable art and artists are for spirit and soul, for human coexistence. Therefore, the Kunstwerk Carlshütte now continues telling its story, literally burning with desire to fill the halls and the sculpture park with life again.

The Carlshütte, where iron was smelted for many decades, today is a melting pot of a completely different kind: Between June and October, paintings and sculptures, photographs and installations by more than 200 selected artists from all over the world become a total work of art. Each work stands for itself and at the same time in dialogue with the others. In synergy with the imposing backdrop, a unique atmosphere develops, inviting you on a journey of discovery. Besides the foundry halls with their 22,000 square metres, the exhibition grounds include a 80,000 square metres sculpture park and the charming ACO Wagenremise building.

The NordArt 2021 will of course take up the script from the previous year, but many of the planned projects have been updated and complemented by new ideas. Every single work of art and all combined are linked to a narrative of human existence. This time, one topic in particular emerges: the examination of our ethical principles and the quest for ways to preserve lost values in modern age.

This applies, for example, to this year’s country focus, which is dedicated to contemporary art in Ukraine. Under the title "The Limits of Reality", the curators of the Ukrainian Pavilion Evgen Karas and Darina Momot from Kiev are presenting works by 22 Ukrainian artists and the “A4 ballpoint project”.
"What does it mean to be human beyond the limits of reality? We can watch art explore and compare new lessons from previous legacies of civilization to develop a new conceptual apparatus for navigating a world," says the curators duo.

Likewise, the special exhibition “Identity • Contemporary Art from Central Asia”, which shows paintings from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, focuses on the search for orientation. Curator Dr. Manuchehr Kudratov explains the common perspective as follows: “The search for traces of one's own identity is based on mythopoetic traditions and Sufism, which are at the same time questioned. The artists demonstrate their individual mythologies and original ways of dealing with the cultural heritage of the region."

In the ACO Wagenremise it is going to be fantastical, since partly realistic, partly animalistic human beings move in there: a world full of mythological, political, ironic allusions

There will be a reunion with all prize winners of NordArt 2019. These include the three Public Choice Award winners David Černý from the Czech Republic, Deng Guoyuan from China and Xi Jianjun from Great Britain as well as Ochirbold Ayurzana from Mongolia – laureate of the NordArt Prize endowed with 10,000 euros and sponsored by Hans-Julius and Johanna Ahlmann.

Virtual offers of NordArt:

NordArt 2019

NordArt 2019: 1 June – 13 October 2019
Public Opening Ceremony: 1 June 2019 at 5 pm
Entrance in the sculpture park and catering from 3 pm, the halls are open 6 pm - 8 pm
Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday 11 am – 7 pm
Visitor information
Artists of the NordArt

The 21st edition of the large summer exhibition will feature paintings, photographs, sculptures and installations by more than 200 artists from all over the world. Each artwork stands for itself and at the same time in dialogue with the others.

This year's Focus Country is on France with its own pavilion under the patronage of the Ambassador of France in Germany, Anne-Marie Descôtes. In collaboration with curators Jérôme Cotinet-Alphaize and Marianne Derrien, the country pavilion titled "Some of Us – an overview on the French Art Scene" is dedicated to French female artists born between the late 1960s and early 1990s who have made a name for themselves in our neighbouring country and beyond in recent years. The exhibition aims to investigate the development across two generations of women, illuminating commonalities and examining what is typically French or perhaps Western. "Some of Us" is an exhibition in two parts: "Focus" is based on a selection of emerging artists with recent recognition in France. As a complement to this focus, the second exhibition "Statement" offers a panorama of more than a hundred female artists.

Mongolian contemporary artists, to whom NordArt gave a major stage in 2015 and 2016, will once again show a selection of their works. These pieces of art feed on animistic petroglyphs, Buddhist iconography, traditional painting, socialist realism and Western-influenced abstraction, which coalesce into a new, very unique style. Under the exhibition title "In der Welt Sein: Encountering Sublimity", 23 artists from Mongolia are presented, curated by Bodibaatar Jigjidsuren and Oyuntuya Oyunjargal.

The ACO Wagenremise building sets an important regional focus by zeroing in on the North German Realists, who joined forces 30 years ago and have long been a fixture in the art scene. In the fall of 1989, when the political landscape of Europe began to move, a circle of artists, inspired by Nikolaus Störtenbecker, started to look into new ways of painting and drawing directly in front of the object, thus conveying a very own signal.

NordArt will again be presenting new highlights from China in 2019. After Liu Ruowang's spectacular apes and Xu Bing's phoenixes, visitors can look forward to Noah's Garden by Deng Guoyuan and Babylonian by Xi Jianjun. All prize winners of NordArt 2018 will be represented with new works this year. These include the three Public Choice Award winners Xiang Jing, Zhang Dali and Ekaterina Zacharova as well as Michal Gabriel, winner of the NordArt Prize sponsored by Hans-Julius and Johanna Ahlmann.

Chief Curator of NordArt: Wolfgang Gramm / Co-curator of NordArt: Inga Aru Hosts of Kunstwerk Carlshütte: Hans-Julius Ahlmann & Johanna Ahlmann

NordArt 2018

NordArt 2018: 9 June – 7 October 2018
Public Opening Ceremony: 9 June 2018 at 5 pm
Entrance in the sculpture park and catering from 3 pm, the halls are open 6 pm - 8 pm
Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday 11 am – 7 pm
Visitor information
Artists of the NordArt

NordArt is celebrating an anniversary this year: For the 20th time, painting, sculpture, photography and installation works by 200 selected artists from around the world will be exhibited at Kunstwerk Carlshütte. NordArt is one of the largest contemporary art shows in Europe, conceived by chief curator Wolfgang Gramm as a Gesamtkunstwerk, an overall artwork embedded into an unique exhibition venue formed by the historical iron foundry and extensive park grounds. More than 3000 applications by artists from 105 countries were received this year.

The exhibition, while nourished by the varying perspectives of individual cultures, also clearly illustrates that East and West, North and South share many common hopes and dreams. For deeper insight, NordArt each year devotes a special pavilion to a different country and turns the spot light on a Focus Artist. NordArt sees itself as a scope for cultural development and a source of inspiration for artists from around the globe, whether they are internationally renowned or newcomers.

This year’s Country Focus is on the Czech Republic. Under the exhibition title „On the Borders of Limitlessness and the Future“, will be introduced sculptors and painters using techniques other than the classical ones. Curated by Lucie Pangrácová and Michal Gabriel from Prague. Patron of the Czech Pavilion will be the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Germany, His Excellency Mr. Tomáš Jan Podivínský.

Simultaneously, Czech-born sculptor and longtime professor in both Prague and Kiel Jan Koblasa (1932-2017) takes centre stage as Focus Artist. NordArt thus not only bows to a great artistic personality - it also wishes to honour a man who gave important impulses especially during its early years.

Longstanding cooperations with the Chinese Embassy in Berlin and Chinese cultural institutions and close ties to the Chinese art scene have in the past led to many spectacular displays at NordArt. Contemporary art from China will again receive special attention in 2018.

Many previous awardees will be represented this year too: winners of the Public Choice Awards as well as artists who have received the NordArt Prize endowed with 10,000 euros which is sponsored by Hans-Julius and Johanna Ahlmann.

NordArt 2017

NordArt 2017: 10 June – 8 October 2017
Public Opening Ceremony: 10. June 2017 at 5 pm
Entrance in the sculpture park and catering from 3 pm, the halls are open 6 pm - 8 pm
On 10.06. free admission
Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday 11 am – 7 pm
Visitor information
Artists of the NordArt

Already for the 19th time, the NordArt is inviting you to get inspired, amazed, and completely captivated by the paintings, sculptures, photographs and installations of selected artists from all over the world. The NordArt is one of the largest annual exhibitions of contemporary art in Europe. Again for 2017, Chief Curator Wolfgang Gramm promises many surprising moments in the historic iron foundry and the spacious sculpture park.

Year after year, the exhibition redefines itself anew, setting new priorities. In synergy with the imposing backdrop of the historic iron foundry, the exhibits of about 250 artists from around the world develop their own unique atmosphere, taking visitors on an unforgettable world trip through art.
Wolfgang Gramm: „The NordArt is alive. It sees itself as a refuge and source of inspiration for artists from all over the world – this holds true for internationally renowned artists as well as for newcomers. The NordArt has dedicated itself to the task of enhancing mutual understanding through the language of art. Every year, the audience marvels at foreign narrative traditions, but is also amazed by how many common experiences people share, even though they live thousands of kilometers apart.“

COUNTRY FOCUS of NordArt 2017: DENMARK • „Three Generations of Historicity“
For a number of years, the NordArt has been focusing on a country with its own pavilion, cooperating with embassies, cultural institutions and curators of the respective countries. After focusing on China, the Baltic States, Russia, Mongolia and Israel, this year‘s view turns toward our closest neighbours – to Denmark.
Curator Jette Gejl (Aarhus) has oriented herself in the selection of the artists to the Danish peculiarity of artist collectives, presenting works by 21 artists from three generations, who devote themselves entirely to different topics, but derive their commonality from the artistic approach to the theme and dealing with the materials.
Jette Gejl: „I have been inspired by this historical kinship in which artists across generations seem to work together from a similar agenda, and not just on each other’s shoulders, but mutually inspire and challenge each other or independently have the same tone of the zeitgeist. The artists in the Danish Pavilion at NordArt 2017 represent a great range of generations, mediums, genres and geographic affiliations.“
H.E. Friis Arne Petersen, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Denmark, has taken on patronage for the Danish Pavilion.

FOCUS ARTIST of NordArt 2017: David Černý
In 2016, David Černý received the NordArt Prize remunerated with 10,000 euros, donated by Hans-Julius and Johanna Ahlmann. Černý, who created, among other things, the golden four-legged Trabi at the German Embassy in Prague, is one of the best-known contemporary Czech artists. A bustling world citizen, he is looking very closely wherever he is, deliberately provoking with his works and stimulating most productive debates. Černý was represented for the first time at the NordArt in 2004: with two oversized babies, who are also crawling up the Prague TV tower.

The long-standing cooperation with the Chinese embassy in Berlin and Chinese cultural institutions – as well as close contacts with the Chinese art scene - has already made many spectacular performances by Chinese artists possible at NordArt. To mark the 45th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Germany and China, a larger space is dedicated again to art from China.
Co-operation partners: Chinese Ministry of Culture; Embassy of the People‘s Republic of China in the Federal Republic of Germany; Volkswagen AG; Xu Bing Studio; Culture, Sports and Tourism Administration of Shenzhen Municipality; Shenzhen Shangqi Cultural Diffusion Co., Ltd

This year‘s highlight is the spectacular installation „Phoenix“ by the world-famous conceptual artist XU Bing. After stations in Beijing, Shanghai, New York and at the Venice Biennale, the two mighty sculptures can now be seen in Büdelsdorf. Each 30 meters long, eight tons heavy – and yet the two phoenixes, in various cultures traditionally standing for glory and beauty, seem to be flying with great ease through the aisles of the Carlshütte.

China – Economic Wonderland: By the example of the city of Shenzhen, the exhibition „World by World“ illustrates how the economic upturn has influenced life rhythm and also art. 21 artists from Shenzhen show paintings, sculptures, installations and photographs – selected by curator Yang Yong and supported by the city of Shenzhen.

More Artists from China
LI Xiangqun, sculptor and president of LAFA, as well as WANG Yigang, painter and director of the LAFA Museum, are exhibiting in cooperation with the Luxun Academy of Fine Arts (LAFA).
There will be a reunion with LIU Ruowang (Public Choice Award 2016), LIU Yonggang (NordArt Prize 2015) and LV Shun (Public Choice Award 2015), as well as other Chinese artists.

Special Project from CHILE
In cooperation with the Embassy of the Republic of Chile in Germany, an artists‘ group of twelve young artists will be presented.

Hosts at the Kunstwerk Carlshütte are Hans-Julius and Johanna Ahlmann.
The Kunstwerk Carlshütte is a non-profit cultural initiative of the internationally active ACO Group and the cities of Büdelsdorf and Rendsburg.
Centrepiece is NordArt, which has been held annually in the summer months since 1999, with around 250 selected artists from all over the world. The historic iron foundry‘s huge halls covering 22,000 square meters of floor space and an 80,000 square meter sculpture park make an impressive backdrop for the exhibition.

Since 2011, the Kunstwerk Carlshütte is also home to the international orchestral academy of the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival. The ACO Thormann Hall was specifically converted into a rehearsal and concert space for this purpose, providing room for 1,200 listeners. NordArt and the festival are not only good neighbours, who both cultivate a global network of artists, they are also promoting the crossover of fine arts and music - this year with 17 concerts at the premises of the Kunstwerk Carlshütte. After the highly successful SHMF premiere amidst NordArt 2015 with percussionist Martin Grubinger and “The Big Seasons” 2016 with Klaus Maria Brandauer, „The Big Organ“ with Cameron Carpenter comes to NordArt this year.

Bringing the world together, sharing and exchanging experiences, is also the basic idea of the annual NordArt Symposium. Prior to the NordArt, up to 20 artists from different parts of the world create their sculptures, installations and paintings at the Carlshütte for the current exhibition.
Dr. Jo Kley, sculptor and supervisor of NordArt Symposium: „We artists wish nothing more than being able to work at an inspiring place. The NordArt Symposium meets these needs and provides excellent opportunities to give space to inspired fantasies. Nothing seems impossible with the excellent support of the whole NordArt team and the warm hospitality of the Ahlmann family.“

NordArt 2016


Schleswig Holstein becoming Hotspot for International Art again

The Kunstwerk Carlshütte is looking forward to the already 18th edition of the NordArt, one of the largest exhibitions of contemporary art in Europe that has shown works by 250 selected artists from around the world each summer since 1999. The art show performs on the vast aisles of the historic iron foundry Carlshütte with 22,000 square metres (236,000 ft² ) floor space and a 80,000 square metres (860,000 ft² ) sculpture park. For 2016, about 4500 artists from 109 countries have submitted their applications – thus setting a new record.

For several years, the NordArt has put the fine arts of one specific country in the focus with its own dedicated pavilion. After having focused on China, Russia, the Baltic States and Mongolia, the NordArt will take an in-depth look on Israel this summer. Entitled „Circle of Life“, the Israeli pavilion shows contemporary art from a country that has, like no other, integrated influences from dozens of nations into its culture. Curator is Carmit Blumensohn.

One of the artists in the focus of the NordArt 2016 is the Chinese artist Liu Ruowang. With his large-scale sculpture groups „Wolves Coming“ and „Original Sin“ that seem to leave a comment on the current world situation, he proves a downright visionary power. Also, there will be a reunion with NordArt Prize awardee Liu Yonggang (China) and the Public Choice awardees Jang Yongsun (South Korea), Lv Shun (China) and Ochirbold Ayurzana (Mongolia).

The NordArt is designed by chief curator Wolfgang Gramm as a complete artwork, in which the displayed works of art not only speak for themselves alone, but develop a distinct atmosphere interacting with the impressive scenery of the industrial architecture, taking the visitors on an unrivalled world trip through art. As an internationally established forum for cultural education and exchange, the NordArt has dedicated itself to the task of enhancing mutual understanding through the language of art.

Bringing the world together and sharing and exchanging experiences is also the basic idea of the annual NordArt Symposium. Prior to the NordArt, up to 20 artists from different parts of the world create their sculptures, installations and images in the Carlshütte for the current exhibition.

The Kunstwerk Carlshütte is a non-profit cultural initiative of the internationally active ACO Group and the towns of Büdelsdorf and Rendsburg. It is a special place for exhibitions, concerts, readings, theatre performances and film screenings. Since 2011, also the Orchestral Academy of the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival (SHMF) is at home at the Kunstwerk Carlshütte – in the specially converted rehearsal and concert hall “ACO Thormannhalle” that accommodates audiences up to 1,200 people. After the highly successful SHMF premiere with Percussionist Martin Grubinger, also in 2016 there will be festival concerts amid the NordArt.

Hosts of the Kunstwerk Carlshütte is entrepreneurial couple Hans-Julius and Johanna Ahlmann.

NordArt 2016: 4 June to 9 October 2016
Public Opening on 4 June, 5pm
Opening Times: Tue-Sun 11am – 7pm
Vorwerksallee, 24782 Büdelsdorf
Tel. +49 (0)4331 354 695 • info@kunstwerk-carlshuette.de
www.kunstwerk-carlshuette.de (Events at Kunstwerk Carlshütte)

NordArt 2015

Press release

Even if the region between Baltic and North Sea is usually associated with a rural idyll, one of the largest contemporary art exhibitions in Europe takes place right there. From 6 June to 4 October 2015, the now 17th edition of the spectacular show is hosted at Kunstwerk Carlshütte in Büdelsdorf in Schleswig-Holstein. The NordArt 2015 presents works by 250 selected artists from 55 countries. This year‘s country focus is on Mongolia with its own pavilion.

Formerly Northern Germany‘s largest ironworks, the aisles of the decommissioned Carlshütte with 22,000 square metres form an equally huge and fascinating backdrop for 1,000 works of art. In the associated 80,000-square-metres sculpture park, about 100 objects are on display. The steady increase of candidates - about 3,000 artists from 99 countries have submitted their work this year - is an impressive indication of the unusual exhibition’s reputation.

Chaired by chief curator Wolfgang Gramm, the jury selects works in the fields of painting, installation, sculpture, photography and multimedia. The initiators’ idea is a total work of art, which is located between the poles of the works of established artists and newcomers. Despite their differences, they develop a common language standing in dialogue with the rugged charm of the industrial architecture.

For several years, the NordArt has been putting a country in focus with its own pavilion. After China, the Baltic States and Russia, this year it’s Mongolia. A decision characterized by relevance, since in 2015 modern art from Mongolia presents itself in Europe. The debut is at the Biennale in Venice beginning of May, and from 6 June, in cooperation with the Mongolian Embassy, the works of 34 artists of the country can be seen in Büdelsdorf. GANTUMUR Luvsannyam, Minister of Education, Culture and Science of Mongolia, has taken on patronage. OYUNTUYA Oyunjargal and BODIBAATAR Jigjidsuren are curators of the Mongolian pavilion.

Since 2000, the international NordArt Symposium is held prior to the NordArt. For about four weeks in May, up to 20 artists from different generations and countries are going to live and work on the site to create art across borders together. This results in large-scale works exclusive to the NordArt (sculptures, installations, paintings).

After in 2014 the special project „China Garden - Confronting Anitya“ received the first NordArt Audience Award, in 2015 a new selection of Chinese objects will be seen. Liang Kegang is the curator of „China Garden 2015“.

In addition to the Audience Award, each year an artist is awarded the NordArt Prize. 2014 prize winner, the group AES+F from Russia, is again represented by a video work at the NordArt 2015. The 10,000-euro NordArt Prize has been sponsored since 2010 by Hans-Julius and Johanna Ahlmann (ACO Group). The entrepreneur couple organizes and finances the exhibition in the form of a public-private partnership together with the towns of Büdelsdorf and Rendsburg. The organizers take the ever-increasing number of visitors – in 2014 70,000 guests were counted – as a good sign and incentive to establish Büdelsdorf in Schleswig-Holstein as a hotspot of contemporary art.

NordArt 2015 Country Focus dedicated to Mongoliai
The Heirs of Chinggis Khaan – Contemporary Mongolian Art

With Mongolia, the NordArt sets its fourth country focus after China, the Baltic States and Russia. Mongolia also makes its debut at this year‘s Venice Biennale. In Büdelsdorf (Schleswig-Holstein), however, a far greater number of artists - both newcomers and internationally renowned - show their impressive work. The Mongolian Pavilion is curated by Oyuntuya Oyunjargal and Bodibaatar Jigjidsuren, in cooperation with the chief curator of the NordArt Wolfgang Gramm. Gantumur Luvsannyam, Minister of Education, Culture and Science of Mongolia, has taken on patronage. Cooperation partner is the Embassy of Mongolia in Berlin.

Reflected in the artists’ works is the chequered history, the cultural tradition of closeness to nature and the preserved nomadic culture of the Mongols, who were united by the great Chinggis Khaan in the 13th century and have their religious roots both in shamanism and Buddhism. But also the problems of the social upheaval of the young Mongolian democracy are a reference point for refocusing, critique on civilization and search for one’s own position and identity in the global discourse. Thereby, Western and Eastern traditions unite into surprisingly modern stories that can be described with good reason as “world art”.

So Gankhuyag Lkhamsuren (born in 1961) stands for formal and surreal sculptures in which humans and animals coexist harmoniously side by side. Otgonbayar Ershuu called Otgo (born 1981) shows in Büdelsdorf a six meter long and more than two meters high, colourful and filigree painting of humans and animals. Lkhagvadorj Enkhbat (born 1987) devotes himself in his work to the forgotten, lost, lined people in today‘s Mongolian society. Dorjderem Davaa, sculptor and installation artist (born in 1981) says about art: „The artist shows the special moments in life when man asks for the deeper meaning of freedom.“

The NordArt 2015 opens on Saturday, 6 June at 17h, with an address by Mongolian Ambassador His Excellency BOLOR Tsolmon. A German-English-language catalogue will accompany the NordArt with an extra section on the Mongolian Pavilion.

NordArt 2014

Press release

Daring ideas sometimes are the best ideas. In art, as in life itself. They put something into motion. They call on us to think the unthinkable. And once in a while, they make the impossible possible.

NordArt once also has been started as an idea. As a vision that reaches for the stars: to transform the vast halls of the former iron foundry Carlshütte along with its park-like grounds into one single work of art.

To create an exhibition, some of whose exhibits are formed only on site. A playground for the visual arts that simultaneously stages music and literature. A place beyond the hustle and bustle of the art world, where you can get into conversation with artists or just ponder your dreams.

The idea from back then has ignited. For the past 16 years, NordArt has been making its way, undeterred. Nearly 3,000 artists from more than 100 countries competed this year to take part – happy 250 are chosen to show their work here.

NordArt is neither afraid of criticism nor uncomfortable topics. Its focus countries such as China and currently Russia are not easy-care. But would a show of contemporary art really want to be like that? NordArt rather invites us to direct our attention to the unifying element beyond politics, the arts, and to gain our own impression.

As a public-private partnership, NordArt and its venue, the Kunstwerk Carlshütte, always look to cooperation. Whether with the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival, the folkBALTICA or the Danish Culture Centre in Augustiana/Sønderborg: With strong partners, they have networked the Nordic culture scene across national borders.

„Dreams or visions grow with the possibilities,“ exhibition organizer Wolfgang Gramm once said. The project NordArt is made possible by the right people, who have found each other at the right time and place.

Entrepreneurial couple Hans-Julius and Johanna Ahlmann provides the localities and finances most of the exhibition; painter and sculptor Wolfgang Gramm composes as chief curator each year a new total work of art. As different as the characters seem to be - they have in common a burning for the arts and the bravery to enter uncharted territory.

We, the visitors, are also fundamentally different. Each with his everyday life, his hopes, his dreams. Also in us there is a pioneering spirit, when we enter the Carlshütte this year: What can we expect? Which work of art will touch us in a special way? And where will the spark skip that ignites our own idea? Let‘s find out. The door is wide open.

Madeleine Lobach
Freelance journalist

NordArt 2013

There are art exhibitions and art exhibitions. There are the prestigious shows of contemporary art, where big names are courted and promising newcomers are hyped. There are the crowded fairs, which often only seem to be about galleries grabbing the best places, aiming at the pole position to score points with the passing well-funded customers.

But there are also the non-profit cooperatives. Places where art is not only displayed, but emerges in the dialogue among the artists and in close contact with the audience. Places where you - whether artist or visitor - feel at home instantly. Places where you can be as you are. These places are few and far between, rare pearls in a sea of commercial uniformity.

The Kunstwerk Carlshütte in the Schleswig-Holstein countryside is such a pearl. Ironically, here at the Kiel Canal between two seas, where you suspect wind turbines and brindled cows, north German clichés, but no international art, this is exactly what you find in abundancy: The Kunstwerk Carlshütte with its flagship, the NordArt, is anything but fixed.

It’s still allowed to experiment here: contemporary visual art meets classical music, poetry slams meet ballet performances, jazz musicians meet sculptors. It is a living organism, a gesamtkunstwerk that shows itself in ever-changing facets. Unpretentious, yet exceptional. Unconventional, yet down to earth.

The NordArt has long ceased to be a small player, not only the numbers proving so. After modest beginnings, it has developed over the last 15 years into the largest annual exhibition of contemporary art in Europe. Not least thanks to the close cooperation with the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, with whom the NordArt shares the country focus since last year, the Kunstwerk Carlshütte is firmly anchored in the northern European cultural scene. Nevertheless, it has succeeded to preserve the charm and spontaneity of a studio visit or a jam session.

Once you get to know the two founders, you understand the reason for this: Wolfgang Gramm, painter, sculptor, curator, and Hans-Julius Ahlmann, entrepreneur, friend of art, music lover. Both open-hearted, bustling, of boyish charm. Both grown men who know the booms and low blows of life well enough to meet them with serenity. Both pioneers, enthusiasts, visionaries.

The mutual appreciation is high. “Without Wolfgang Gramm, the vision of the NordArt would have never existed”, says Hans-Julius Ahlmann. Wolfgang Gramm adds: “From the symbiosis between entrepreneur and artist, the NordArt emerged”, and affirms that without the friendship with the Ahlmann family, without the sponsoring of the ACO Group, a project of this magnitude would be unthinkable.

And without the commitment and dedication of the many participating artists, especially Estonian artist Inga Aru, who, as a driving force and co-curator, contributed to getting the Baltic Pavilion of this year’s country focus off the ground, the Kunstwerk Carlshütte would not be what it is: a very special place that welcomes, warms the heart and inspires the mind.

Much has already been done. What remains to be done now: put your shoes and hat on, get out the door. Discover the undiscovered, think the unthinkable – in another unforgettable summer of international art in Schleswig-Holstein.

Madeleine Lobach
Freelance journalist

NordArt 2012

Surrounded by nothing but vastness. Driving from Hamburg up North, with every kilometre the landscape is getting emptier, the sky higher. Wind turbines, cows, sheep are recurring motifs. Almost surreal, how the colourful freighters on the Kiel Canal glide across the country, from sea to sea. On the horizon the steel loop of Rendsburg High Bridge, delicate as a brush stroke. Exit Büdelsdorf. A roundabout with the sculpture of a megalithic tomb in its centre. Megalithic tombs are common in this area. Artworks are rare.

Suddenly, the huge factory halls of Carlshütte rise amidst the rural serenity, witnesses of the heavy industry that was once located here. Destination reached, the navigation system announces. Once you enter the grounds of main sponsor ACO, where NordArt emerges year after year, you immerse yourself in a ubiquitous presence of world-class art. It’s hard to decide where to turn your eyes or lead your steps to first, whether wandering through the exhibition in the old factory halls, or on a safari through the sculpture park. A different kind of vastness surrounds you here: With Kunstwerk Carlshütte and NordArt, a Gesamtkunstwerk unfolds, whose dimensions are elusive.

Art and countryside – a concept that works. Kassel, Marfa, Büdelsdorf: Behind each town’s name stands the vision of an artist to create a platform for contemporary art, sophisticated, non-conformist, groundbreaking. And what would be a more ideal location for such an audacious art project than the ‘cultural wasteland’ that is the countryside? documenta, Chinati Foundation and NordArt prove each in its own way, that art does not have to be located in a metropolis to show international format.

Arnold Bode, Donald Judd and Wolfgang Gramm each found his own way to realise their vision. Wolfgang Gramm’s way to implement the NordArt project leads along the public-private partnership with the ACO group and its managing director Hans-Julius Ahlmann, plus the cities of Rendsburg and Büdelsdorf.

NordArt is young. Grown out of infancy, hitting adolescence. Its development is rapid: In the beginning 1999, 50 artists from 6 countries were featured. 2012, at the 14th edition of NordArt, it showcases the works of 245 artists from 50 countries, including Georgia, Syria, China, New Zealand, Mexico, South Africa. The audience keeps pace, with a record attendance of 45'000 in 2011.

NordArt is vibrant. It sees itself not as a museum, but as a refuge for artists from all over the world, who enter into dialogue with each other and the audience in the „global village“ of Büdelsdorf. Year after year, the exhibition redefines itself, setting different priorities. As in 2000, when the first sculpture symposium preceded NordArt, supplemented 2008 by a painters’ symposium. 2011, concerts and open rehearsals joined in, as part of the concurrent Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival.

2012, the centrepiece of NordArt is the China Pavilion. For this contribution to the Chinese Culture Year in Germany, NordArt has won the award „365 Places in the Land of Ideas“, already for the second time. However, the view on China is nothing new to NordArt. In keeping with tradition, artists of all kinds from the Middle Kingdom are very welcome there and always numerously represented.

„Art is ungovernable, art is free“, says curator Wolfgang Gramm. Free of political or content-related attitude, NordArt wants to „bring the world together in dialogue“. It has already succeeded. In the future, NordArt will become a talking point even more so. To witness it as long as it is still something of a secret: Go there. And join the conversation.

Madeleine Lobach
Freelance journalist