The Value of the “Exhibition Value”

Exhibition view: The Content of Form, Generali Foundation, 2013 © Generali Foundation. Photo: Margherita Spilutti

Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 5–8 p.m. (German)



Walter Benjamin contrasted cult value and exhibition value without further elucidation. By way of different readings, the symposium seeks to historically and systematically localize this term between collection value and the value of the work.


5 p.m.

Eva Kernbauer

Conversation Pieces



Walter Benjamin describes the development of exhibition value as a process whereby works of art evolve into “creation[s] with entirely new functions.” In their roles as exhibits, works of art open up a multiplicity of varying communicative references which unfold between the works and viewers among the assembled public, and in the interaction of the works themselves. A review of the earlier points in exhibition history underscores the complexity of these “conversations” and the diversity of the fragile and precarious logical structures thus connected with the exhibition, the collection and the museum which, among others, disclose themselves in their various historical references.



Eva Kernbauer is professor of art history at the University of Applied Art, Vienna. She studied art history at the University of Vienna and at the Free University Berlin. In 2007, she submitted her doctoral thesis to the University of Trier on the concept of the art audience in eighteenth century. From 2008 to 2010 she was lecturer for modern and contemporary art history at the University of Bern, followed by a post-doctoral research scholarship from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, before going on to write her treatise entitled “Historical Views of the Present.” Her present work centres on contemporary research on the historicity of contemporary art; on sculpture and installation art since the 1960s, as well as on the materiality of film and video installations.


5:45 p.m.

Kathrin Busch

Image – Touch– Exposition



The shift from cult value to exhibition value, which, as Benjamin maintained, had implications for the notion of art, initially signified little other than a profanation of art. The gesture of such unorthodoxy is touch. It leads to a different usage of the image. Whereas classic visual understanding in painting is reflected in the ‘Noli me tangere’ motif, the new approach is revealed in the treatment of pictures, in handling, mounting, arrangement and constellation. According to Benjamin, these processes serve perception. The lecture seeks to pursue the shift through to the tactile use of images, before going on to enquire as to whether and how exhibitions are today committed to the milieu of a curatorial research of these profane uses of pictures.


Kathrin Busch is professor at the Berlin University of the Arts. Counting among her primary areas of research are contemporary French philosophy, aesthetics and artistic research. Her publications include: Geschicktes Geben. Aporien der Gabe bei Jacques Derrida, Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2004; On Artistic Research. AS – a visual culture quarterly 179 (2007), co-edited with Dieter Lesage; Bildtheorien aus Frankreich. Ein Handbuch, co-edited with Iris Därmann, Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2011; P – Passivität, Hamburg: Textem, 2012.


6:30 p.m.

Gregor Stemmrich

Economies of Attention



The question as to the “value of exhibiting” does not primarily refer to ways of exhibiting and kinds of exhibitions, but to exhibiting as such. Exhibiting is a mode of presentation. Cultures that have not developed the exhibition format also acknowledge forms of presentation. The lecture focuses on the fact that while art is, per se, concerned with the structure of presentation, this is not to be equated with the structure of exhibitions. However, in that exhibiting is a mode of presentation, an indistinct perspectivation and overdetermination may be discerned. This is discussed under the title “Economies of Attention.” The question of value is further developed as based on Walter Benjamin’s concept of the “exhibition value.”


Gregor Stemmrich is Professor of art history of the 20th/21st centuries, at the Free University of Berlin. He designed the module Kunst und Kinematografie [art and cinematography] for the media art net ( His publications include: Minimal Art. Eine kritische Retrospektive, Dresden: Verlag der Kunst, 1995; Jeff Wall. Szenarien im Bildraum der Wirklichkeit, Dresden: Verlag der Kunst, 1997; Kunst/Kino, Jahresring 48, Jahrbuch für moderne Kunst, Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2001; Having been said – Writings and Interviews of Lawrence Weiner 1968–2003 /Gefragt und gesagt – Schriften und Interviews von Lawrence Weiner 1968–2003, co-edited with Gerti Fietzek, Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2004; Dan Graham, Cologne: DuMont, 2008; Kunst als Verhör. Robert Morris: Hearing, Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2009/Robert Morris: Hearing, Leipzig: Spector Books, 2012.


7:15–8 p.m. 
Panel Discussion with all Participants
Moderation: Helmut Draxler


Helmut Draxler is an art historian and cultural theorist. He was director of the Munich Kunstverein from 1992 to 1995 and professor of aesthetic theory at the Merz Akademie in Stuttgart from 1999 until 2012. Since January 2013, he has been professor of art theory and art education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg. His current research foci include a theory of the communication of art and the thinking of history in the historiographies of modern and contemporary art. His publications include Gefährliche Substanzen: Zum Verhältnis von Kritik und Kunst (Berlin: b_books, 2007); Die Gewalt des Zusammenhangs: Raum, Referenz und Repräsentation bei Fareed Armaly (Berlin: b_books, 2007); Film, Avantgarde, Biopolitik, with Sabeth Buchmann and Stephan Geene (Vienna: Schlebrügge Editor, 2009); and Theorien der Passivität, co-edited with Kathrin Busch (Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, forthcoming).


Admission free