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Annual Theme 2020: History

The annual theme forms a common thread throughout the exhibition program, thus facilitating access to contemporary art and offering greater understanding through the conceptual linking of individual exhibitions. A diverse selection of artistic strategies, concepts and art media make for an exciting overview

Ideas-based Approach

The annual theme of history focuses on how history is represented and addressed in contemporary art. The impetus for presenting this theme in 2020 is the fifteenth anniversary of the European Center for Art as well as the 200-year anniversary of the Schafhof, both of which are being celebrated by the District of Upper Bavaria in 2020. As with all the annual themes, addressed are issues that artists themselves are currently engaged with. This year ideas are the focus, similar to the themes of Identity (2016) and Emotion (2018), as opposed to themes addressing more formal aspects such as Color (2013), Structure (2015) and Sound (2017).

Representation of History in Art History

In ancient times, historical events were closely tied to the mythical world of the gods. Battles were fought and decided by the gods, heroes were chosen by the gods, cities were founded in mythical locations, ruling dynasties claimed divine lineage. The Pergamon Altar, for instance, chronicles the founding of the city with a cycle of relief images featuring the legend of Telephus. And the founding of Rome was linked to numerous depictions of the history of Romulus and Remus. In medieval religious art as well, historical references were embedded in the representation of biblical scenes.

The origins of historical painting date back to the Renaissance in the fifteenth century. The names of persons or events were typically common knowledge and art became secularized. At the same time, artistic representation evolved with the rediscovery of perspective. It was the dawn of a great era of battle paintings, but instead of depicting the settings of historical conflicts, compositions were often designed for dramatic effect, and numerous motifs and poses were adopted from antiquity. Given the numerous wars in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, historical painting greatly influenced the fine arts. In the nineteenth century, national movements gave the genre new impetus, the history of individual populations was reinterpreted and infused with emotion.

With the emergence of technological processes such as photography, sound recording and film in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the representation of events through media and their authentic documentation became part of the visual arts. Precisely because of the effects of this authenticity, or in spite of them, such media are easily subject to emotional manipulation. Examples here include the editing sequences in the film Battleship Potemkin, an outstanding example of Soviet propaganda, or Triumph of the Will, Leni Riefenstahl’s filming of the 1934 Nazi Party Rally in Nuremberg.

In the second half of the twentieth century, with Joseph Beuys’s expanded concept of art and the reflexive character of conceptual art movements, strong emphasis was placed on historical and social conditions. Painting has since been redefined through its reflecting on and incorporating of electronic media elements. A transformation often transpires between various media such as photography, video, computer graphics and painting. Outstanding examples here are Gerhard Richter’s Photo Paintings dealing with German history.

At the dawn of the new millennium, digitization has made it possible for anyone at any time to make use of media technology. Personal recordings and digital simulations of events have become part of artistic work. Video recordings with smartphones have brought events closer, while computer technology and modern imaging methods can be employed to research and visualize interrelationships.


Beginning in late April, exhibitions on the annual theme of history at the European Center for Art will present a wide range of artistic mediums and various perspectives on this topic. Exhibited will be works that deal with or are related to questions of time, transience, the perception of history and the past in an artistic way:

Oswiecim ‒ Dachau: Artworks focusing on history and a linking of locations with a common history
New Beginnings ‒ Historical urban documentation in combination with site-specific works of art, in cooperation with the Stadtmuseum Freising
Forensic Architecture ‒ Digital imaging techniques as a means of researching and reconstructing events
Andreas Kuhnlein: Ship of Fools ‒ Sculptural ensemble addressing the protagonists of all events throughout history: people, ourselves
Bernd Zimmer: Natural History(ies) ‒ The series of large paintings touch on the origins of the world and life itself.


Opening hours Exhibitions 

Summer (March-Oct)
Tue - Sat 2 - 7 pm
Sun + holidays 10 am - 7 pm
Winter (Nov-Feb)
Tue - Sat 2 - 6 pm
Sun + holidays 10 am - 6 pm

Opening hours Café Botanika

For opening hours, information and events please have a look on the website of the café: cafe-botanika.de


Am Schafhof 1
85354 Freising

The exhibition spaces and the café are accessible to the disabled. The entry to the exhibitions is free.

online &  d i g i t a l :

Schafhof - Europäisches Künstlerhaus Oberbayern
Schafhof . d i g i t a l
at Videopool

Schafhof general information leaflet 2018 to downloadSchafhof
General information

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