The Emscher Park international architectural exhibition (IBA) under Prof. Karl Ganser comes to an end after ten years, raising the issue of the future of the industrial monuments it had rediscovered for the arts. At the same time, the government of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is working on plans to raise NRW’s international profile in a lasting way. The discussions take into account changes in economic, social and cultural structure. One key suggestion to emerge from the IBA, the creation of a decentralized and project-oriented art festival for the Ruhr District, opens up a historic opportunity. Saved from dereliction and now the focus of aesthetic awareness, the fascinating halls, decommissioned power stations and collieries prove to be predestined for new forms of artistic debate. The venues develop to become the distinguishing feature of a festival directed towards the entire region.

2002 – 2004

Founding director Gerard Mortier (1943 - 2014) places the creations at the heart of the festival – productions that transcend genres and seek a dialogue with the individual venue. Former machine halls and coking plants witness drama and opera entering into combination with innovative developments from the worlds of fine art, pop, jazz and concert music. The festival acquires further instantly recognizable facets in the form of its high calibre programme of literature, the Century of Song concert series and the Junge Triennale.

2005 – 2007

The second RuhrTriennale takes place 2007 under the direction of Jürgen Flimm. The programmes for the three seasons take Romanticism, Baroque, and The Middle Ages as their central artistic themes. The spectacular new production of Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s opera Die Soldaten in Bochum’s Jahrhunderthalle makes musical theatre history.


Following the death of Marie Zimmermann, the appointed director for the 2008 to 2010 seasons, Jürgen Flimm, stays on as General Manager. The slogan for this season’s festival is Aus der Fremde.


With new artistic director Willy Decker at the helm, the Ruhrtriennale explores the tension between art and creativity and the primal moment of religiousness. In 2009 it was looking at the arena of Jewish culture, in 2010 at Islamic and in 2011 at Buddhist culture.


Heiner Goebbels becomes new artistic director of Ruhrtriennale.