260,000 visitors came to see Emscherkunst 2016 in the Ruhr

Press release from 16th September 2016

Dortmund / Ruhr metropolis, 16th September 2016. After nearly 100 days, this weekend witnesses the closing of the international Emscherkunst 2016 exhibition. A good 260,000 visitors experienced the display of contemporary art positions in both natural and urban environments along the river Emscher. The slogan “Discover the art – Experience the change” was manifested at art venues such as Lake Phoenix and an enormous flood control reservoir in Dortmund. Emscherkunst is thus an outstanding symbol for the structural change taking place in the Ruhr.

For the third time after 2010 and 2013, the international Emscherkunst 2016 exhibition took place from 4th June to 18th September 2016 in the heart of the Ruhr metropolis. A 50 kilometre long art parcours (best experienced by bicycle) extended from Holzwickede and Dortmund via Castrop-Rauxel to Recklinghausen and Herne. Following just under 100 exhibition days, a team of curators and the organisers – Emschergenossenschaft, Urbane Künste Ruhr and the Regionalverband Ruhr – drew a positive balance. A good 260,000 visitors took the advice of the slogan “Discover the art – Experience the change” to go on a tour through seven art venues.

Curator Prof. Florian Matzner: “This year’s exhibition venue in the eastern part of the Emscher Valley focused the attention of the public both on the past of the not yet renaturated part of the Emscher in the area of Recklinghausen and the future with the already renaturated and ecologically sustainably designed regions. This current edition of Emscherkunst is thus an outstanding symbol for the structural change taking place in the Ruhr.”

The preliminary analysis of the visitor survey reveals that over 60 percent of the visitors used their own bicycles to see the exhibition – it also being possible to hire bicycles at the four visitor centres. Over 60 percent of those surveyed had a clear preference for starting the art route at the Emscherquellhof and then travelling in a westerly direction via Dortmund/Castrop-Rauxel to Recklinghausen.

Dr. Simone Timmerhaus, Co-Curator and Director of the Emscherkunst Exhibition Office summed up: “We are not showing agreeable art that merely illustrates the landscape. The artists selected by us have created interpretations with their works, which represent an invitation to discussion with the public. Works, such as the Venetian Chiosco at Lake Phoenix, encourage the visitors to reflect on their homeland and the structural change associated, thus entering into conversation with each other!”

How broadly anchored Emscherkunst is already in the general public is revealed by the commitment displayed both by the local communities involved and the lively participation in associated Emscherkunst projects, such as the Vestischer Künstlerbund (artists’ association) in Recklinghausen and the Dortmund Cultural Office.

Katja Aßmann, Co-Curator and Artistic Director of Urbane Künste Ruhr: “In our view, Emscherkunst 2016 is a complete success, as it has succeeded in inspiring local people for art. This is one of the major tasks that Urbane Künste Ruhr is committed to. With their works, the Emscherkunst artists have had a direct impact on the people’s everyday life, left a legacy of poetical, critical and humourous comments on the transformation of the Emscher Valley while issuing many different kinds of invitations to join in shaping the change in the region.

 Wide-ranging event programme on ecology, climate and structural change

Some 7,500 visitors also took part in one of the over 30 Emscherkunst events. Not only numerous formats, such as the tried-and-tested “artist on the spot” as well as the “Emscherkunst.Trio”, brought not only the artists and their artworks to the public attention, but also themes such as ecology and sustainability, which are closely connected to the Emscherkunst concept. The preliminary analysis of the visitor survey reveals that over 70 percent of those surveyed associated the exhibition with the Emscher renaturation theme, followed by a good 64 percent with the theme “Art in public spaces” and 53 percent with “Ecology and nature”. More than 40 percent of those surveyed were aware of and made use of the event programme. No less than 97 percent favour a continuation of the Emscherkunst art triennial!

Both the art scouts and guided tours went down well.

The 80 art scouts trained by Prof. Klaus-Peter Busse from the TU Dortmund received positive ratings: even in the heavy rain at the beginning of the exhibition and the scorching heat from the middle of August, they stood at most of the artworks ready to help the public by explaining the backgrounds to the artist, the artwork and the Emscherkunst concept. Their friendliness and competence was particularly mentioned by a large number of those surveyed. The guided tours newly offered by meineheimat.ruhr were also very well received. A total of 14 different Emscherkunst tours were on offer – almost 2/3 of the participants came from the region. Overall, more than 100 tours for visitors were conducted by the fifteen-strong team of tour guides in the almost 100 days of the exhibition.

Scarcely any vandalism

It is also gratifying to note that there were hardly any cases of vandalism to the artworks: just a few graffiti tags at Reiner M. Matysik’s Cloud machine at Lake Phoenix and stolen steel grids from the steps at raumlabor’s For a short spell required minor repairs at short notice.

The final weekend

On the final weekend, a colourful programme of events awaits visitors at all seven art venues. Definitely an insider tip: the end of the exhibition is being marked by a religious service on Sunday, 18th September 2016 at 6 pm at raumlabor’s sculpture For a short spell. This enchanted location directly on the Emscher in Dortmund-Dorstfeld – a sculpture looking like an enormous chunk of coal – contains an accessible golden interior area with a special sound experience.

Background to Emscherkunst

Since the RUHR.2010 Capital of Culture Year, the international exhibition in the form of a triennial series of exhibitions has accompanied one of the largest renaturation projects in Europe – the transformation of the Emscher River wastewater channel back to a natural river landscape. In its first edition as part of the RUHR.2010 European Capital of Culture Year, Emscherkunst with 200,000 visitors was the biggest art project to be held in public spaces in the Ruhr. In 2013, a total of 255,000 visitors came to see the temporary works of the Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei, the Dane Tue Greenfort, the Swede Elin Wikström and the Belgian Hans Op de Beeck. Emschergenossenschaft, Urbane Künste Ruhr and Regionalverband Ruhr are again cooperating as the organisers. As in 2010 and 2013, the North Rhine-Westphalia State Ministry for Families, Children, Youth, Culture and Sport has supported this exhibition in public spaces along the Emscher.