A dispute between two cities in North Rhine-Westphalia that has been going on for years has been decided. The German Photo Institute goes to Düsseldorf. Essen, the other applicant for the project, was given a consolation prize: funding for the music program at the Zeche Zollverein. Those responsible in the Ministry of Culture and in North Rhine-Westphalia have agreed on this. Both the federal government and the state want to provide 43 million euros for the project. But that shouldn’t be more than a start.
The idea for the photo institute dates back to the tenure of Monika Grütters, the former Minister of State for Culture. Above all, an initiative led by the photo artist Andreas Gursky and other representatives of the “Düsseldorf School”, which includes some of the best-known German names in photography, campaigned for the Düsseldorf location. You had always referred to yourself as the best argument for locating the photo institute in Düsseldorf. Essen had referred to the Folkwang University, one of the most important German educational institutions for photography, as well as the important photo collections of the Folkwang Museum, the Ruhr Museum and the Krupp Archive as location advantages.
A commission of experts convened by Monika Grütters in 2019 spoke out in favor of Essen, despite the prominent names in Düsseldorf, and a study carried out afterwards confirmed the recommendation. It was unclear on Friday why a decision was made in favor of Düsseldorf under the supervision of Grütters’ successor Claudia Roth. Apparently the decision was made in NRW rather than in Berlin.
The photo institute should take care of preserving the photographic cultural heritage. It is intended to show exhibitions, collect photographers’ estates and conduct research on the restoration and conservation of photographs. For a long time, the Düsseldorf star photographers were suspected that their commitment was not entirely altruistic. Last but not least, they seemed to think of the preservation and archiving of their own works in their concepts. In the course of the fierce competition for the photo institute, however, the concepts of both cities have converged.