ArtNow: Tell us about your work as a museum curator (e.g. your years of observing artists’ practice, organizing exhibitions, and managing an art museum collection).
Dr. Theres Rhode: My main task as a museum curator is to create, organize and realize exhibitions. The most challenging aspect is to generate an idea for the show. What could be interesting for an audience? Is it a new idea in the art scene? Can it be realized? A lot of work is connected to this main task. A “good idea” for an exhibition has a long preliminary phase. A “good idea” does not come out of nowhere. You have to observe the art scene, visit art fairs and artists in their studios. On the other hand it is important to follow the topics of the time. What has exceptional relevance to society? Once an idea is created, it is not always easy to make it a reality. There are a few hurdles. Are all pieces of art, that I am interested in, available? Do we have to care for special conservational conditions? Are the walls in our museum high enough for the pieces? Often ideas die because of questions like that. If we decide to realize a show a lot of work is to be done: a selection must be made, contracts must be signed, an exhibition’s course must be created, texts must be written, and the art scene and the press must be informed. Of course all that is the work of the curator but you can only realize a huge exhibition only with the help of a team. I need the conservator, the technicians, people who care for the collection, the museum educator and so on. But the work means more than just exhibitions. A museum is also quite like an office space- not everything is connected with creativity. There is a lot of bureaucracy involved too.
ArtNow: How does your expertise aid an artist’s relationship to a gallery/museum, respectively?
I feel that creates the basis. Everything starts with a good education. But that is not enough. You have to keep your eyes and ears open, talk to a lot of people in the scene, work with different galleries, visit fairs and other museums. Everywhere you are, whether its work or your free time, there is always inspiration to be gathered. That helps form your knowledge. This knowledge is important. There are so many people who tell you that they “do something with art”. Only with knowledge and a nurtured sensibility do you get an idea what could be really important for your work. It’s a question of time and lifelong learning. I am young, so I still have a lot to learn!
ArtNow: How does your interaction with an artist evolve from your initial encounter with their work, to studio visit, and then to the realization of a museum exhibition?
It is important to talk to artists, to visit them in their studios, to understand how they work. There are pictures, that need no explanation, but there are also works, that gain even greater significance in the context of their production.
In our museum we have a large wall. In every show the artist is working with this wall. He or she creates a temporary mural. Before the artwork comes to realization, we have a lot to discuss. What works? What could be interesting in connection with the show? Then the artist is constantly at the museum and creates the images/ art directly on the wall. In this time the connection between the artist and the museums staff gets quite intensive.
ArtNow: Could you please share a brief history of the “Museum of Concrete Art and Design”?
Ingolstadt’s Museum of Concrete Art is Germany’s only museum specialized exclusively in Concrete Art. The museum opened in 1992 with 1000sq exhibition area. The collection comprises the works of Josef Albers, Max Bill, Richard Paul Lohse, Victor Vasarely, François Morellet and Jesus Rafael Soto, among others. Alongside its extensive collection, the Museum of Concrete Art regularly shows changing exhibitions.
ArtNow: What attracted you to the “Museum of Concrete Art and Design”?
First of all it is the mixture from art and design. I wrote my PHD thesis in the field of exhibitions about architecture and habitation at the beginning of the 20th century. I was a PHD candidate at the Bauhaus-University Weimar. The Bauhaus and the international style in architecture and design – these topics were areas of my deepest interest. Similarly these topics belong also to the roots of concrete art and to our museum. I love the simple and straight look of this art movement. But there is often something beyond it: a sense of humor, an idea, a trick. Simplicity does not come out of nothing. Often there is a lot of complexity beyond it.
ArtNow: What do you think is the primary challenge facing museums today?
Often it is money. Museums and exhibitions are expensive. You have to inject money in it, but you don’t get money out of it. Everything in our world seems to be connected to efficiency and economy. Museums don’t work like that. They generate creativity and knowledge. They are educational institutions. There is an output, but you can’t count it based on a profit like you can with money. You need people to create exhibitions and to impart the topics. It is not always easy to explain this to public financiers, investors or sponsors.
ArtNow: In your opinion are commercial galleries doing what museums can’t?
For me that is a completely different field. A museum doesn’t sell art. A museum doesn’t care that an artist is earning money. Both fields are highly connected to each other. But the task is something different. A museum creates exhibitions and needs the galleries to get to really know the artist. The collection of a museum is based on quality. That can be connected to the price on the market. But this need not be the case. On the other hand the galleries are pleased when works of their artists are shown in museums. Then the price of the works increase on the market.
ArtNow: Do you believe there is more pressure on artists this day to make saleable works?
It was never easy for artists. If you have a brief look at art history you can recognize that people, who work it the creative branch, always had to struggle. Of course there are a few examples that were rich and successful during their lifetime. But that was the minority.
I think a real artist doesn’t create art, because it is saleable, but because they have to. That art is a passion that keeps them alive. They create art because they want to. And if they are lucky, their works are saleable.
ArtNow: How does your work as a curator co relate to your experience as an art historian?
In every field good work is connected with good knowledge. Knowledge does not come out of nowhere. When I look at a piece of art and am wondering, if it could be interesting for my work as a curator, I have to have an idea, where this picture belongs to. Has something similar existed in art history before? What do I know about the technique? In which tradition is the artist standing? Does it really mean an invention?
Only when I am really interested in art I can work with it. And the interest is a result of my experience and expertise.
ArtNow: What is your personal take on Germany’s contribution to the international art scene, particularly from a historical perspective?
I am not sure, if a country has a contribution. Isn’t it mostly a school, a movement, a group of persons? A lot of different individuals are connected to a contribution and they are often coming from al lot of different countries. Just take the Bauhaus. The Bauhaus was an art school that had a big influence on modern art, architecture and design. It was founded in Weimar, moved to Dessau and Berlin. Those are all German cities. But the people at the school came from different countries. It all happened in Germany in a very special time: between two wars. Revolution in politics, revolution in the art scene. This movement had influence worldwide – even till today. But it was only a beginning. Germany has a hard history. Today it is quite opened mined. An open mind creates diversity and creativity. Berlin for example is a melting pot for ideas and a lot of artist from over the word a coming to the city to create something new. Let´s hope that every stays that way! Let’s stay open minded!