Arne Schmitt

In his photographic works, Arne Schmitt (born 1984 in Mayen, Federal Republic of Germany) deals with architecture and urban development. Central to his observations are the historical and societal entanglements of these spheres. Schmitt dissects both urban spaces and historical material, whether accidentally discovered or specifically sought out. His work is usually site-specific, as for example in Winterthur, where he looked at the symbolic economy of the Sulzer industrial park, which has become a much more creative and mixed-use space. In his 2015 book The New Inequality he took numerous walks through Cologne, looking for flashes of evidence of its neoliberal reconstruction. Schmitt’s exacting photography crystallizes the political in each structure and the spaces between structures.

One of his most important publications is When Attitudes Become Form (2012), a collection of photographic essays on the post-war architecture of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Hannover Sprengel Museum dedicated an exhibition to the work in the same year that it appeared. In 2018 he published Basalt: Origin Usage Exaltation, a photographic examination of this very specifically German natural and building material, dealing with its use and the mythology that surrounds it.

In 2013 he was a recipient of the Wüstenrot Foundation’s award for documentary photography, one of the most important awards of this kind in Germany. He was a Karl Schmidt-Rottluff fellow in 2016, and in 2018 he received the Prize of the Böttcherstraße in Bremen. Film has been playing an increasingly important role in his work since 2016. With Stadt – Gegenstadt (2018), he created a film essay on the relationship between the traditional city of Mannheim and the industrial, workers’ city of Ludwigsburg. In it, he used intertitles that feature extracts from a text Ernst Bloch published in Die Weltbühne in 1928. His film Sur les pavés l’asphalte debuted in Autumn 2020. It deals with the historico-economical development of Bordeaux’s university zone. Arne Schmitt lives and works in Cologne.


Wenn Gesinnung Form wird/Philfak
Zeichen der Zeit
Abbruch aller Beziehungen
In neuer Pracht
So viel wie nötig, so wenig wie möglich
Die neue Ungleichheit
Die autogerechte Stadt
Geräusch einer fernen Brandung
Glossar. Urformen der Städtebaukunst
Versagen der Normalsprache
Kunst nach 45
Manche Dinge ändern sich nie

The open conflict fought out between students and the state in the stone centre of the European city, a conflict that intermittently activated large sections of the population, had its beginnings on the outskirts of Paris, on the modern university campus at Nanterre. In Bordeaux, too, the first student protests took place in the halls of residence on the extensive suburban university campus that had been built since the 1950s. In 1968, only the humanities were still in the city centre, becoming the headquarters of the student movement. After the end of the unrest, the responsible prefect called for the faculty to be relocated to the periphery as quickly as possible.

There is a wealth of links here between centralism and marginalisation, between urban planning and technocratic control of society. Active minorities often intervene from the margins – but the path to the centre must be taken if lasting change is to be achieved. The same applies for the more recently contested terrain that opens up between language, thought and action.

Students in Berlin-Hellersdorf publicly criticized a poem that had been applied to one of the façades of their university on the orders of its directors. The students demanded to be con- sulted, proceeding democratically through all of university’s

administrative committees – and achieved change. A majority within politics and society, characterized above all by superior power, was so outraged by this as to call for an authoritarian inter- vention – often with reference to their own values as members of 1968 generation. Their complaint: the students were only speaking for a minority.

In the context of this debate, what does it mean that this outraged majority had hardly ever seen the façade in question close up, nor the part of Berlin where it stands? And how does the non-university neighbourhood see the façade - as its most frequent group of viewers?

Arne Schmitt, leflet to Zum Gedanken der aktiven Minderheit, ngbk, Berlin, 2021

Signs of the Times
On the history of an ahistorical area named Parkstadt Schwabing


Arne Schmitt’s new photo book is devoted to a single material: basalt, a volcanic rock that has been mined for thousands of years in the Osteifel quarries of Mayen and Mendig. Its hardness coupled with its porous structure made it an ideal raw material for millstones, and it thus became a commodity that was traded far and wide. In the Osteifel region local houses were built from basalt. In the boom years that began midway through the nineteenth century, an entire building culture developed around the material, with the result that on many streets the houses still have a matt dark-grey appearance. Schmitt’s numerous black-and-white photographs juxtapose the different states, treatment processes, and applications of the rock. The constant features of the natural material help bring into focus its transformation into a cultural product. Basalt: Origin Usage Exaltation was published in conjunction with a solo exhibition at the Bielefelder Kunstverein in April 2018.

Severance of all relations

In New Splendor

As much as required, as little as possible

The New Inequality

The automotive city

Sound of a far-off surge

Glossary. Primary forms in urban development

This series of photographs puts on display various modes of urban construction as found miniatures.

Mannesmannufer Regierungsviertel Medienhafen

The failure of normal language

Art after 45

In Arne Schmitt’s series of photographs titled Kunst nach 45, he captures various constructions: garage entrances, underpasses, office buildings, art in public spaces. These constructions are usually, in a broad sense, attributed to the period of post-war modernism in Germany.

“Art after 45” is a rather fuzzy term for art that was made in the period after the war. Both art informel and conceptual painting are included, as well as the art group ZERO or the work of Joseph Beuys. Certain auctions and galleries specialize in “art after 45” – although the term does not describe a specific style. And yet it attempts to stand for a new and innocent German art, which has nothing to do with either “before 45” or “before 33”. It represents a kind of historical amnesia, which operates in a similar manner in architectural discourse. The cropped views of structures in Schmitt’s works remind the viewer of indeterminate works of West German post-war art.

Some things never change


Solo Exhibitions

Zum Gedanken der aktiven Minderheit, station urbaner kulturen (nGbK), Berlin

Zeichen der Zeit, Galerie Jacky Strenz, Frankfurt am Main
Räson, Wilhelm Hack Museum, Ludwigshafen

Zeichen der Zeit. Zur Geschichte eines geschichtslosen Gebiets genannt Parkstadt Schwabing, Kunstraum Münschen
die Insel (mit Fari Shams), Skulpturenmuseum Glaskasten, Marl

Basalt. Ursprung Gebrauch Überhöhung, Bielefelder Kunstverein
Persönlichkeit und System, Stadtmuseum München

Some Places to Read, Richas Digest, Köln
In neuer Pracht, Jacky Strenz, Frankfurt a.M.
Alleinanspruch, mit Nico Joana Weber, Temporary Gallery, Köln

Zwei Arbeiten, Galerie K', Bremen
Inseln der Differenz, Kjubh Kunstverein, Ebertplatz Köln

Einer unter Vielen, Jacky Strenz, Frankfurt a.M.

Die autogerechte Stadt. Ein Weg aus dem Begriffs-Chaos, Galerie K', Bremen

Bunker-Erfahrung, kjubh, Köln

Wenn Gesinnung Form wird / Verflechtungen, Sprengel Museum, Hannover
Spot-Specific, mit Stef Renard, Galerie 52, Folkwang UdK, Essen
UN City, Wien, AT

Projektraum Mikro, Düsseldorf

It was the Streets that raised me, Streets that paid me, Streets that made me a Product of my Environment, mit Andrzej Steinbach, HGB Leipzig

Vierten Grades, mit Daniel Niggemann, Fotofolgen / Galerie der HfbK Hamburg

Group Exhibitions

Abbruch aller Moderne, Galerie K', Bremen

Vom Leben in Industrielandschaften. eine fotografische Bestandsaufnahme, Leopold Hösch Museum, Düren
Historiker*innen, Galerie K', Bremen
Historiker*innen, Haus 1, Berlin
Karl Schmidt Rottluff Stipendium. Die Ausstellung 2019, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf

Kunstpreis der Böttcherstraße in Bremen, Kunsthalle Bremen
1938. Geburtstagsfest mit Gästen, Sprengel Museum Hannover

Arbeiten gehen. Eine Ausstellung der Galerie BRD, Galerie Jahn und Jahn, München
The Photographic I - Other Pictures, S.M.A.K., Ghent
Global Players, Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie, Kunstverein Ludwigshafen
Asymmetrische Architexturen, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf
New Positions, Förderkoje mit Galerie Jacky Strenz, Art Cologne, Köln

In Deutschland reloaded (II), Galerie Kicken, Berlin
Von den Strömen der Stadt, Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach
Dokumentarfotografie Förderpreise der Wüstenrot Stiftung, Museum für Photographie, Braunschweig


Zeichen der Zeit. Zur Geschichte eines geschichtslosen Gebiets genannt Parkstadt Schwabing, Spector Books, Leipzig

Basalt. Ursprung Gebrauch Überhöhung, Spector Books, Leipzig

Lob der Peitschenlampe, Eigenverlag

Die neue Ungleichheit. Ein Bildband entlang neoliberaler Architekturen (mit Thorsten Krämer), Spector Books, Leipzig

Geräusch einer fernen Brandung, Spector Books, Leipzig

Wenn Gesinnung Form wird. Eine Essaysammlung zur Nachkriegsarchitektur der BRD, Spector Books, Leipzig
Concrete Philosophy. On the specifics of a universal exhibition, Eigenverlag
It was the streets that raised me, streets that paid me, streets that made me a product of my environment, mit Andrzej Steinbach, Spector Books, Leipzig

FUTURE TOGETHER NOW, Buchprojekt von Enrico Grunert, Aglaia Konrad, Ina Kwon, Tobias Neumann, Willem Oorebeek, Arne Schmitt, Andrzej Steinbach u.a., Institut für Buchkunst Leipzig

Artist Books

Rebuild to Destroy, 18,5x27cm, SW-Laserdruck,SC, Auflage: 30

Manche Dinge ändern sich nie, 26x39cm, SW-Laserdruck, HC, Auflage: 10
Nationalgalerie, 14x13cm, SW-Laserdruck, Heft, Auflage: 50
o.T.(Zeitgenössische Deutsche Fotografie), 17,3x23cm, SW- und Farblaserdruck, Heft mit Poster im Schuber, Auflage: 20

o.T. (Zeitgenössische Deutsche Fotografie), 17,3x23cm, SW- und Farblaserdruck, Heft mit Poster im Schuber, Auflage: 20
Pankow, 35x24cm, SW-Laserdruck, HC, Auflage: 15
Das höchste Gebot, 18x24cm, Farblaserdruck, Heft, Auflage: 15

Resort, 12x16cm, SW-Laserdruck, Heft, Auflage: 25
Die Herren, 16x24cm, Farblaserdruck, HC, Auflage: 8
Geräusch einer fernen Brandung, 18,5x25cm, Farblaserdruck, HC, Auflage: 5

2006™, 25x19cm, Ringbuch aus C-Prints, Auflage: 3


Fotomuseum Winterthur
Kunstsammlungen Zwickau
Museum Folkwang, Essen
Museum Ludwig, Köln
Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung, Hannover
Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen, Frankfurt am Main
Sprengel Museum, Hannover
Kunsthalle, Bremen
Studienzentrum für Künstlerpublikationen / Weserburg - Museum für moderne Kunst, Bremen
Sammlung Schürmann
Bundeskunstsammlung, Bonn