OSTRALE – International Exhibition of Contemporary Arts
The Ostragehege in Dresden gets its name from the village Ostra, meaning “island”, which was first mentioned in 1206. Augustus the Strong later used the wooded area as a hunting ground for red deer. Nowadays the site is home to the OSTRALE, which still retains strong links to the history of the place: its logo features a red deer, and its name combines Signale (the German word for signal) with the roots of the Ostragehege. Classified as a natural monument, the Ostragehege is an important area for habitat and species protection, and a green lung for the city of Dresden.
The OSTRALE’s main exhibition spaces are a collection of slaughterhouse buildings that date back to 1906. Designed by Hans Erlwein in the Heimatstil style, the complex was one of the largest and most technologically advanced facilities operating in Europe at the time. It had its own rail connection, generated its own energy and treated its own wastewater.
The 1945 bombing of Dresden left the slaughterhouse buildings severely damaged. Once restored, the complex was home to Dresden’s state-owned meat combine, which stopped operating in 1992. Because of their special historical importance, the remaining buildings are now listed. The complex is also well known outside of Germany, having achieved international fame when US author Kurt Vonnegut published The Slaughterhouse Five, or the Children’s Crusade.
By choosing this as the main site for its exhibition, the OSTRALE creates an exhilarating contrast between the contemporary artworks on display and the ramshackle, unrenovated industrial buildings that house them. The impressive setting comprises 18 feeding sheds, each with a massive hayloft, and the small cowsheds in Haus 11 (15,000 m2). It also covers the concrete areas outside the buildings, and a green stretch of wasteland (25,000 m²).