Bethanien, a Secret Place where Art is the Protagonist

The former hospital in the area of Kreuzberg becomes a place of exchange for artists and visitors

September 06th, 2019
Elisabetta Quinzanini, News from Berlin

The Kunstquartier Bethanien is an innovative project that was born with the intent to redevelop an urban area long abandoned, through the promotion of social and artistic activities.

The impressive and huge building is located in a park in the multi-ethnic Kreuzberg district of Berlin and covers an area of 450 m². The particularity of the edifice lies in its origin, in fact it was built between 1845 and 1847 as a psychiatric hospital by the German architect Theodor Stein. Initially was managed by an association of nuns. It was converted into a military hospital during the war period. Heavily hit in two bombings in 1943 and 1945, Bethanien was partially rebuilt in 1951, but never returned to the full of its operation: the number of patients and employees was gradually reduced, and from 1966 the debts became very high. In 1968 the municipality of Berlin decided to demolish it, but the reaction was forceful: protests from environmentalists, district committees and associations for the defense of historic buildings. Thanks to this strong public position, in 1969 Bethanien was recognized as a historic building.

The former hospital is now a very active cultural center where exhibitions compare different artistic positions regarding the cultural and social processes of the contemporary world. In particular, the building hosts 32 non-profit cultural associations, ateliers for artists, galleries, theaters, a mime center, a cinema, a library, schools of music and acting, graphics, digital animation, languages, dance and much more. In order to facilitate the permanence of these associations, the rental prices of the exhibition spaces are very cheap and advantageous.

The building welcomes artists from all over the world creating a space where cultures interact and give messages to the public. The current performances are: Igor Vidor, Brazil; Anna Rùn Tryggvadòttir, Island; Talya Lubinsky, South Africa; Hyelim Cha, Korea; Emi Otaguro, Japan; Hajime Mizutani, Japan; Peter Flemming, Canada; Che-Wei Chen, Taiwan; Aline Bouvy, Luxemburg; Fermin Jimenez Landa, Spain; Sara Issakharian, Iran.


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