February 23 – May 27, 2018
FORUM 045: Arne Schmitt – Personality and System

The Münchner Stadtmuseum FORUM 045 young photography exhibition showcases two pieces by Arne Schmitt (born 1984, Mayen). This Cologne artist focuses particularly on the architecture of modernity and the postwar period. His works reflect the context in which they were created and the zeitgeist of formative buildings or building typologies. At the same time, they adopt a critical stance towards to the way we currently view postwar architectural history in the Federal Republic of Germany.

The exhibition title, “Personality and system”, refers to Schmitt’s pieces: “In neuer Pracht” (“In new splendor”), 2017; and “Mit weniger mehr schaffen” (“Doing more with less”), 2016. These are dedicated to a client for a building and an architect, and their individual accomplishments. The client was Hans Gerling (1915-1991), the insurance company owner responsible for the erection of an imposing corporate headquarters in Cologne, which set the tone for that particular district. The architect was Hans Neufert (1900-1986), who, in 1936, wrote “Bauentwurfslehre”, which became one of the best-selling reference books for students of architecture.

Arne Schmitt, without title, from the series In neuer Pracht („In new splendor”) 2017 © Arne Schmitt / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Arne Schmitt, without title, from the series In neuer Pracht („In new splendor”) 2017 © Arne Schmitt / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Arne Schmitt, without title, from the series In neuer Pracht („In new splendor”) 2017 © Arne Schmitt / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

Arne Schmitt’s “In neuer Pracht” series addresses the conversion of the former Gerling-Insurance (Gerling-Versicherung) headquarters as part of a major real-estate project. This architectural ensemble in the north-west of Cologne city center was largely built in the 1950s and 1960s. In recent years, a real-estate developer has converted it into expensive condominiums and office space. While a number of new buildings have been added, the features of the existing architecture have deliberately been preserved. Hans Gerling, under whom the company blossomed into an international insurance empire in the postwar period, commissioned various architects to realize his vision of a prestigious head office. He was advised by sculptor Arno Breker, a friend of the family, who created sculptures and reliefs for the square. Its monumental austere Neoclassicism, which had been mockingly dubbed in the postwar period as “Cologne’s Reich Chancellery”, is today openly advertised in terms that, like the formal language of the building, recalls the values that flourished under National Socialism. The “In neuer Pracht” series captures this deeply neoliberal ideological regression in both photos and text.

The exhibition also includes a video by Arne Schmitt “Mit weniger mehr schaffen. Die zeitlose Wissenschaft der Rationalisierung” (Doing more with less. The timeless science of rationalization.) It is a video adaptation of Ernst Neufert’s architectural reference work and reads between the lines of this highly technical and richly illustrated textbook to uncover its ideological content. It offers a montage of selected pages, with a female narrator who unpicks its underlying theory, largely overshadowed by the book’s resolutely practical approach. The video montage foregrounds the ideological content of a book which was first published under National Socialism and has since been updated by the publisher with 40 new editions.


1984 born in Mayen, lives and works in Cologne
2005-2011 Academy of Fine Arts, Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig
2011-2012 Hogeschool Sint-Lukas, Brussels
2014-2015 Visiting professor, University of Fine Arts, Hochschule für bildende Künste (HfbK) Hamburg

Exhibitions (selection)

2017 Biennale for contemporary photography, Mannheim, Ludwigshafen, Heidelberg Alleinanspruch (in collaboration with Nico Joana Weber), Temporary Gallery, Cologne Asymmetrische Architexturen, Kunstverein Düsseldorf, Dusseldorf

2016 Zwei Arbeiten, Galerie K’, Bremen Wüstenrot Foundation, 10th series of grants for documentary photography, Museum for Photography, Brunswick; Stadtmuseum Münster

2015 Einer unter Vielen, Jacky Strenz, Frankfurt on the Main

2014 Die autogerechte Stadt. Ein Weg aus dem Begriffs-Chaos, K’, Zentrum Aktuelle Kunst, Bremen Die Ausstellung, KIT – Kunst im Tunnel Düsseldorf

2013 Bunker-Erfahrung, kjubh, Cologne

2012 Wenn Gesinnung Form wird / Verflechtungen, Sprengel Museum Hannover

Curator of the exhibition: Erec Gellautz, Fellow, Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach-Stiftung, Essen

Artist’s Talk: Friday, February 23, 2018, 3.00 p.m.