The Triennial was born in Fellbach in 1980 as a forum of contemporary small-scale sculpture. Since then it has been held every three years and has become an internationally renowned exhibition with an outstanding profile. The Triennial owes its good reputation to the uncompromising modernity of the art exhibited, the willingness of the organisers to take risks and the high qualifications of the respective artistic director. The curators are solely responsible for the choice of artists and works.
The initial aim was to take stock of contemporary small-scale sculpture in Germany in order to create a basis for future Triennials. The artistic director of the 1st Triennial in 1980 was Heinz Fuchs, Director of Mannheim Municipal Art Gallery.
The 2nd Triennial in 1983, of which Heinz Fuchs was again the curator, took up an East-West dialogue in order to facilitate a peaceful rapprochement of the hostile camps via cultural exchange. It presented small-scale sculptures from the Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands and Poland. The 3rd Triennial in 1986 intensified the East-West dialogue. The partners were France and Hungary and the curator was Manfred Schneckenburger from Cologne. The 4th Triennial in 1989 (FRG, GDR, Switzerland and Austria), directed by Christoph Brockhaus (Director of Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg), rounded off this group of topics.
The 5th Triennial in 1992 took the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus as a reason to cover the art of Latin America, Spain and Italy. The curator once again was Christoph Brockhaus.
The phenomenon of the "nomadised" artist who is still productive in various countries and artistic venues after the fall of the Eastern bloc regardless of his or her place of origin, inspired those responsible to abandon the principle of country of origin. At the 6th Triennial in 1995, of which Lóránd Hegyi (Vienna) was curator, Europe met Eastern Asia. The 7th Triennial in 1998 carried on the presentation of contemporary streams of art of individual continents. This time Africa was represented in addition to Europe and the artistic director was Werner Meyer, Head of Göppingen Art Gallery.
At the new millennium, Thomas Deecke, Head of Weserburg New Museum in Bremen, designed the 8th Triennial in 2001 as a retrospective evaluation. It was the first Triennial to be held in the Alte Kelter.
Jean-Christophe Ammann, former Director of the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt, placed the 9th Triennial in 2004 under the motto "I want you to believe me!" and questioned contemporary art about its credibility from a decidedly subjective perspective. His central concern was to use the space in such a way that the works of art started to talk to the observers and to each other.
"Bodycheck" was the title Matthias Winzen chose for the 10th Triennial in 2007. Here the specific possibilities of sculpture in current art discourse were examined. With a reversal of proportions, the small format in art and literature has traditionally been a means of alienation.
Ulrike Groos, who since 2010 has been Director of Stuttgart Art Museum, was the curator of the 11th Triennial in 2010. Ulrike Groos and Heike van den Valentyn examined the phenomenon of miniaturisation in art under the title of LARGER THAN LIFE - STRANGER THAN FICTION. Works by approximately sixty international artists were displayed.
Under the title „Utopie beginnt im Kleinen/Utopia starts small“ at the 12th Triennial Yilmaz Dziewior and Angelika Nollert ask how utopian models are created in small formats, in design and in experiments.