The Kunstverein Reutlingen is a place for contemporary art practice and discourse. It aims to present and disseminate contemporary visual art by reaching out to a wide audience and encouraging active participation in cultural processes. With approximately 1,000 sqm of exhibition spaces, it provides a unique platform for critical social discourse and new artistic tendencies. The Kunstverein Reutlingen is a member of the ADVK Working Group of German Art Associations.
The historic ensemble of buildings formerly housed the Christian Wendel metal cloth and machine factory founded in 1869.
The year 2023 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Kunstverein Reutlingen. Originally established in Frankfurt in 1922, it suspended its activities during the Third Reich and reformed in 1953 as the Hans-Thoma-Gesellschaft, subsequently moving its headquarters from Frankfurt to Reutlingen. Its founder, president and executive chairman from 1953 to 1978 was Alfred Hagenlocher (1994–1998). During his tenure, he conceived numerous exhibitions with mainly regional artists as well as with artists whose work had been labelled “degenerate” under National Socialism. Yet Hagenlocher himself had been a member of the NSDAP and the SS from the age of 17, and had joined the Gestapo in 1937. In his function as head of the so-called “Hotel Silber”, the Gestapo headquarters in Stuttgart, as well as in previous positions, Hagenlocher had ordered operations that prompted the postwar denazification tribunal to classify him as a major offender. After multiple appeals, the legal proceedings were eventually stayed in January 1951. Today, numerous files that can be accessed at the Haus der Geschichte, at Hotel Silber in Stuttgart, in the State Archives in Ludwigsburg and in the Federal Archives in Koblenz, among others, evidence his complicity with the National Socialist regime. The Kunstverein Reutlingen unequivocally distances itself from all forms of National Socialist ideology and discrimination of any kind.
In 2000, the name Kunstverein Reutlingen was added to that of the Hans-Thoma-Gesellschaft. Since 2006, the registered society has been operating under the exclusive name Kunstverein Reutlingen: in light of the society’s resolute orientation towards contemporary art in all its guises (painting, photography, installation, sculpture, media art, performance, etc.), the board no longer deemed it appropriate to identify it so closely with the landscape and portrait painter Hans Thoma (b. 1839 in Bernau, southern Black Forest), who in the early twentieth century was deemed “one of the favourite painters of the German people”.
From 1953 to 2005, the exhibitions of the Kunstverein were held at the Spendhaus Reutlingen with its studio gallery, before moving to the Old Town Hall on Rathausstraße from 1968 to 2006 with its 11 exhibition “cabinets”. For many years, these were used to present the work of 11 different artists as part of an annual end-of-year exhibition. In 2006, on the initiative of the incumbent Lord Mayor Barbara Bosch, the Reutlingen City Council agreed to the relocation of the Kunstverein to the first floor of the former Christian Wandel machine factory on Eberhardstraße 14 in Reutlingen. Today called Wandel-Hallen, this outstanding industrial building designed by the well-known Stuttgart architect Philipp Jakob Manz was gradually developed into a full-grown venue for contemporary art. Besides the Kunstverein Reutlingen, it now houses the Kunstmuseum Reutlingen I konkret, the Kunstmuseum Reutlingen I Galerie and the Stiftung für Konkrete Kunst. Thanks to the presence of the Industriemagazin, a collection of historic factory machines located in the structurally connected Shedhalle, the building complex is also a place that celebrates the city’s industrial past. On more than 1,000 sqm of light-flooded spaces in the former factory loft, the Kunstverein Reutlingen provides exhibitors with ideal conditions.
According to its statutes, the board of the Kunstverein is made up of 8 to 12 members, among whom a number of artists. Current chairwoman is Dr. Aline Lukaszewitz. The board has formerly been chaired by Wolfgang Riehle (2000–2021), Dr. Uwe-Jens Jasper (1984–2000), Walter Pöhler (1983-1984), Jürgen Hambrecht (1978–1983) and Alfred Hagenlocher (1953–1978). Alfred Hagenlocher, Dr. Uwe-Jens Jasper and Prof. Dr. Horst Locher have served as honorary chairmen at various stages. In May 2021, Wolfgang Riehle was appointed Honorary Chairman of the Kunstverein “as a token of his appreciation and in recognition of his many years of meritorious service”.
One of the characteristics of the Kunstverein Reutlingen is that its day-to-day operations are run by a full-time managing director, whose role was officially expanded in 2012 to include the function of artistic director. The office holder has significant input in the exhibition programme and its success. Since 2019, Imke Kannegießer has been Artistic Director and Managing Director. Previously, the Kunstverein Reutlingen has been managed by Julia Berghoff (interim management, 2018–2019), Christian Malycha (2013–2018), Katrin Willert (2012–2013), Clemens Ottnad (2002–2012), Bernd Storz (1990–2001), Dr. Brigitte Uhde-Stahl (1989–1990), Werner Meyer (1986–1988), Dr. Anni Bardon (1982–1986), Friedhelm Röttger (1978-1982) and Alfred Hagenlocher (1953–1978).
The Kunstverein Reutlingen has been running long-standing co-operations with the Städtisches Kunstmuseum Reutlingen (among others for the annual alternating exhibition projects Kunst Reutlingen and/or Xylon), as well as with Reutlingen University (Department of Design), the Art History Institute of the University of Tübingen and the State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart.