2021-22 | Artists to Fill the Gap: Commemorating Walter Rathenau in a Jewish Country House

Monochrome image of Walther Rathenau

'Artists to Fill the Gap: Commemorating Walter Rathenau in a Jewish Country House'


Knowledge Exchange Innovation Fund
Professor Abigail Green   |   Faculty of History   |   University of Oxford

Partner Organisation:
urKultur  |  Ruth Ur


In 1906 the Weimar statesman and aesthete Walther Rathenau acquired and restored a Prussian royal palace. His assassination by far-right extremists in 1922 renders him a martyred icon of German democracy, but the Rathenau museum in Schloss Freienwalde hangs by a thread: available to the right buyer for 1 Euro. 2022 marks 100 years since Rathenau's assassination. The Jewish Country Houses (JCH) Project is working with Berlin-based international arts consultancy urKultur to develop an artistic project linking Schloss Freienwalde in Germany with other JCHs through a sustained programme of artistic activity already underway.

A leading contemporary artist, will create site-specific work at Freienwalde to communicate its unique and complex history to younger, more diverse audiences. Freienwalde is characterised by loss: Rathenau's assassination, its lost history during the GDR, and current efforts to fill the gaps with artefacts and furniture. Contemporary photographs give a strong sense of the Schloss interior in Rathenau's lifetime. Starting from these images, the artist will create a single layer 'insert' into the space between the architecture and the display to help contemporary visitors imagine the life once lived there. Working in two dimensions - either directly on the walls or with wallpaper - this intervention will breathe new life into the spaces, hinting at their past and a possible future.

The centenary of Rathenau's assassination will attract attention in Germany and beyond. Current plans at Freienwalde are limited by resources and a lack of local expertise. urKultur has the track record and expertise in running high impact artistic commissions, with access to an extensive network of leading contemporary artists. by working with a leading contemporary artist, JCH/urKultur will put Schloss Freienwalde on the map. This project may serve as a model for other houses in the JCH network, which currently comprises 19 houses in 6 countries.

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