Issue 3: Susanne Gaensheimer

1. You curated the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2011 and 2013. How did you intend to portray Germany?

Portrait of Dr. Susanne Gaensheimer. Photo: Renato Ribeiro Alves
Portrait of Dr. Susanne Gaensheimer. Photo: Renato Ribeiro Alves

Susanne Gaensheimer: The contributions at the Biennale should be political because the national pavilions are political places. Everything you do there is automatically political in some way or can be interpreted politically, at least. In 2011, with Christoph Schlingensief I was focussed on a radical German self-awareness; the question of how a German person perceives Germany. In 2013, I wanted to show Germany as a cosmopolitan, international country. That is why I chose Ai Weiwei, Romuald Karmakar, Santu Mofokeng und Dayanita Singh. All four have a strong presence in Germany and maintain close professional contacts to Germany.

2. Do your experiences at the Venice Biennale influence your current projects?

Christoph Schlingensief, 2011 © Roman Mensing
Christoph Schlingensief, 2011 © Roman Mensing

Susanne Gaensheimer: I have mostly the same approach to exhibtions, no matter where I curate. I deal intensely with the place and try to realise an exhibition that is relevant in some way for this particular place, for that specific context. I do this in the museum, I did that at the pavilion in Venice, and that is also my approach at the Triennal of Small- Scale Sculpture in Fellbach. Venice was a wonderful experience. I like to think back to those times, although the first time with the death of Christoph Schlingensief, of course, was a difficult situation. The media attention for the German Pavilion was intense. That has shaped me in the way I handle the media. My personal reaction was to withdraw a bit from the media.



3. What makes the "perfect" curator?

Ai Weiwei "Bang", 2010-2013, courtesy of Ai Weiwei and neugerriemschneider gallery, Berlin / Photo: © Roman Mensing, artdoc.de in cooperation with Thorsten Arendt  Ai Weiwei "Bang", 2010-2013, courtesy of Ai Weiwei and neugerriemschneider gallery, Berlin
Ai Weiwei "Bang", 2010-2013, courtesy of Ai Weiwei and neugerriemschneider gallery, Berlin / Photo: © Roman Mensing, artdoc.de in cooperation with Thorsten Arendt

Susanne Gaensheimer: I would never say that there is the perfect type of curating. Each curator has a different approach. Any judgement about an exhibition is ultimately a matter of taste. My approach is to develop a vision for the place based on the work of art. This maxim is important to me. The curator also has the task of moderating both the works of art and the people involved the artists, the administration and the politicians. In 2011, when Christoph Schlingensief suddenly died, I tried, for example, to fill the pavilion with input and know-how from all those who had worked closely with him for decades.

3 1/2. After Gudrun Inboden, you were the second woman who curated the German contribution in Venice. In Venice 2017 the German Pavilion will be curated by Susanne Pfeffer. Are female curators on the rise? And do women have to be particularly stubborn?

Awarding of the Golden Lion, 2011 © Roman Mensing
Awarding of the Golden Lion, 2011 © Roman Mensing

Susanne Gaensheimer: If women today were still only on the rise in the art world then that would be an indictment of Germany. It is true that it is odd that women have so rarely curated the German Pavilion. This is striking and makes you think. But actually, I find it bad that it is a talking point at all even when a woman curates the German Pavilion. It is self-evident that a woman can do just as well as a man. That I am especially "stubborn" is something attributed to me by others. I myself would not call it obstinacy, but clarity. I always know exactly what I want, which means I can also represent and implement it. I am not one for despondency.

Issue 1: Florian Ebner

Florian Ebner, curator of the German Pavilion 2015 © Museum Folkwang
Florian Ebner, curator of the German Pavilion 2015 © Museum Folkwang

Issue 4: Udo Kittelmann

Udo Kittelmann curated the German Pavilion in 2001 © Juliane Eirich
Udo Kittelmann curated the German Pavilion in 2001 © Juliane Eirich

Issue 2: Nicolaus Schafhausen

Nicolaus Schafhausen, curator in 2007/2009 © Kunsthalle Wien 2014, photo: Sabine Hauswirth
Nicolaus Schafhausen, curator in 2007/2009 © Kunsthalle Wien 2014, photo: Sabine Hauswirth

Issue 5: Julian Heynen

Julian Heynen, curator in 2003 and 2005; photo: Jeanne Hofer
Julian Heynen, curator in 2003 and 2005; photo: Jeanne Hofer

Susanne Gaensheimer is director of the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt/Main and curated the 3th small Sculpture Triennial in Fellbach. She studied Art History in Munich and Hamburg and until 2001 she was director of the Westphalian Kunstverein in Münster. After that, she directed the collection for contemporary art in the Städtische Galerie at the Lenbachhaus in Munich until 2008. In 2011, she curated the German contribution at the 54th Venice Biennale. For this she was awarded the "Golden Lion". Two years later, Gaensheimer was once again curator of the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

photo: © Harald Schröder
photo: Harald Schröder

 ifa | Interview with Susanne Gaensheimer, curator of the German Pavilion at the Biennale in Venice, 2013