Art in interreligious dialogues. Fostering understanding and encounters

Numerous works in the collection of the Hamburger Kunsthalle depict stories from the Bible, and many of these can be found in the Torah and Quran as well. These artworks inspired a series of events on interreligious dialogue, initiated and hosted by Marion Koch.

Hamburger Kunsthalle:  speakers Friedrich Brandi-Hinnrichs, Özlem Nas, Michael Nüssen (left to right), host: Marion Koch
© Fred Dott, 2012

BKM-Preisverleihung in Genshagen: speakers Özlem Nas, Veronika Schlör, Michael Nüssen (left to right), host: Marion Koch
© Stiftung Genshagen / René Arnold, 2014

Hamburger Kunsthalle: Students from the grammar school Finkenwerder
© Alke Vierck, Hamburger Kunsthalle, 2015

At the events, which take place eight times a year, three speakers from different religious communities stand in front of a work of art from the collection to talk about the piece and discuss basic aspects of their faith. Visitors have the opportunity to find out more about the diverse religions present in their city and can participate in the talks.

The central goal of the events is to make the religious and cultural diversity of the collections come alive. Bringing Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians together in a museum setting is unique, and the encounters allow participants to share crucial experiences. In talks about art, faith and general questions on life, visitors can discover the similarities and differences between religions. The idea is to reduce any sense of strangeness people feel about other faiths, and facilitate mutual understanding through sharing knowledge. In this way, a collection with a European-Christian focus can act as a starting point for insightful, active exchanges in a multi-religious society.

The publication “Auf Augenhöhe – Interreligiöse Gespräche über Kunst” (at eye-level - interreligious talks about art) gives an account of 12 such events. In June 2014 the project was awarded the Prize for Cultural Education 2014 by Monika Grütters, the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media (BKM).

This successful model is currently being rolled out to school groups in a project entitled “Art in Interreligious Dialogue for Schools”. It is aimed to develop a better understanding and exchange in society by offering an often new approach towards arts.

Further information:
The project on the German project website "KulturGut vermitteln - Museum bildet" (Facilitate Cultural Heritage - Museums educate) (German)
On the website of the Universität Hamburg (University of Hamburg) (German)

This project is one of the examples in NEMO's publication "Museums' 4 Values - Values 4 Museums" that show how museums can build, develop and enhance the understanding and exchange particularly in communities.