Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen has a particular position within the Swiss art scene: it can be described as the smallest of the larger institutions for contemporary art or – conversely – the largest of the smaller exhibitors. This is where opposing opportunities, expectations and emotions meet and mix.
Our major interest is to serve as a platform for the work of artists which we consider to be relevant to current discourse. We aim to help them in terms of content and financially in the realisation of new productions and appropriately present and convey their artistic approach to our public.
In addition, we see it as our task to inspire artistic impulses on the spot which contribute to the international networking of the Swiss art scene, publish catalogues and promote the general communication of contemporary art.
As a platform whose agenda radiates openness, Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen aims to propagate an open concept of art and pose questions about current artistic production of a young generation of artists as well as to take up socially and politically relevant themes. We are convinced that art is an important instrument for both the celebration and the questioning of complex relationships: we aim to confront our audience with this complexity. Furthermore, we do not forget our geographical surroundings in our programme. With artists we attempt to master the balancing act between local requirements and global ambitions by using St. Gallen and the region as a starting point and a context for content and to involve specialised partners on the spot in our productions.
Like other Swiss institutions for contemporary art the Kunst Halle was founded in the mid-80s to satisfy the increasing requirements of the local art scene for exhibition opportunities, professional networking and an intellectual exchange of ideas – in other words to make the vitality of the local art scene visible and palpable and to create an identification platform. This pioneer phase, which took place all over Switzerland and served for the establishment of contemporary art as an irreplaceable cultural phenomenon in the public mind, was followed by years of constant further development and professionalisation in which Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen went from being a wandering association without fixed premises to a renowned institution for contemporary art.
The Kunsthalle St. Gallen was founded in 1985 and describes itself originally as a place where artistic statements are used to react to controversial situations relating to urban development. These are represented by condemned properties like the public baths (Volksbad) or the industrial college (Gewerbeschule). The cultural-political idea of employing artistic methods to react to urban development issues provides both the motivation and the driving force for defining cultural sites out of nothing, for a limited time and with meagre resources.
It subsequently becomes possible to move into another property at 24 Wassergasse which is scheduled for demolition at some unspecified time. During the four-year stay there is already a growing sense of institution. The idea of improvisation and drudgery is abandoned, with the conviction that only an enterprise run on professional lines is able to fulfil the expectations of the earlier project. The town of St. Gallen acknowledges the achievement of the Kunsthalle and in 1990 approves an annually renewable subsidy. This subsidy, supplemented by additional support from the Canton and other institutions, enables it to rent exhibition space on a permanent basis, and to appoint a part-time supervisory board in a secretariat role. Content and programming is placed in the hands of young, alternating guest curators, full of enthusiasm and ambition.
At the end of 1992, the premises at 24 Wassergasse have to be vacated for demolition. After a long search, the town offers a temporary solution at 40 Davidstrasse. The Kunsthalle has finally found a permanent home on the cultural scene in St. Gallen. Its first Artistic Director is Josef Felix Müller.
After moving into the premises at 40 Davidstrasse, the Society decides to advertise publicly the position of Artistic Director. The Kunsthalle’s first curator, from 1996 to 2001, is the German Dorothea Strauss. Her programme is increasingly oriented towards international artists. Since September 2001 Gianni Jetzer has held the position of Director at the Kunsthalle. He consolidates the international orientation of his predecessor, at the same time strongly featuring younger artists from Switzerland. In 2004 we moved into premises on the ground floor of a storehouse at Davidstrasse 40. The new location is an important advantage in communicating what we have to offer and emphasising the public interest. The architects Keller/Hubacher from Herisau were responsible for the conversion of the premises. The frieze in the foyer, visible day and night from outside, was used as an exhibition surface by various artists alternating every six months until 2007. Giovanni Carmine has been director of Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen since 2007. His main interest lies in providing a platform for artists for the production of new projects and a place for experiment as well as contributing to the international networking of the Swiss art scene.
The Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen is member of the association of Switzerland's Museums (Verein der Museen der Schweiz, VMS) and of the association of Switzerland's Institutions for contemporary Art (Verein Schweizerischer Institutionen zeitgenössischer Kunst, VSIZK).