Issue 4: Udo Kittelmann

1. From optician to museums director: What made you give up the optician's profession at the age of 30 and join the art world?

Udo Kittelmann 2016 © SPK SMB Berlin, Photo: Juliane Eirich
Udo Kittelmann 2016 © SPK SMB Berlin, Photo: Juliane Eirich

Udo Kittelmann: The desire to escape from the standard professional monotony and routine. The curiosity for an unforeseeable and incalculable career. And, of course, the passion for art.

2. As a commissioner of the German Pavilion, you invited the artist Gregor Schneider in 2001. His contribution, "Dead House u r" received the Golden Lion. What did you particularly like about Schneider?

Golden Lion © ifa
Golden Lion © ifa

Udo Kittelmann: Quite simply: In those days, Gregor Schneider's work represented for me a unique artistic design. My feelings in this regard have still not changed to this today.

I also remember that when "Dead House u r finally took shape and form in Venice, we became more and more aware of the fact that something very unusual had come into the world.
But we were not prepared for any awards, especially since there was public criticism of my selection of artists, and even on the day the "Golden Lion for Best National Contribution" was awarded,
the pavilion had to be closed due to vandalism.

3. You were the first non- Russian curator to design the Russian Pavilion (2013). At that time, you showed the Russian conceptual artist Vadim Zakharov. How did this collaboration come about?

Vadim Zakharov DANAË, Russian Pavilion Venice 2013, view inside, © photo: Daniel Zakharov
Vadim Zakharov DANAË, Russian Pavilion Venice 2013, view inside, © photo: Daniel Zakharov

Udo Kittelmann: Vadim Zakharov and I worked together several times since the mid-nineties. He was one who wished me to be the curator of his Biennale contribution, and the Russian Ministry of Culture granted his wish. Different countries, different structures. Needless to say, Vadim Zakharov's socially and politically changed country-contribution was preceded by a very constructive and concentrated cooperation. Zakharov's contribution, moreover, had its ironic, even humorous and grotesquely absurd facets, which were mainly only apparent to those familiar with the cultural characteristics of the Russian way of thinking and seeing. It was reminiscent of the great Russian poet Danill Charms- that is how it felt at the time.

3 1/2. What did you most enjoy as the Commissioner of the German Pavilion, and what is your secret tip to Venice?

Former Olivietti shop in Venice, Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra (CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Former Olivietti shop in Venice, Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra (CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Udo Kittelmann: The endless queues, which often waited patiently for hours in front of the German Pavilion, and the many visitors who, on leaving the "Dead House u r ", said that waiting for something so rare had been all worth it. And, of course, the great international recognition for a hithero unknown artist. And my secret? The unique Olivietti shop under the arcades at St Mark's Sqaure, which I visit again and again.  It was designed by the great Italian designer and architect Carlo Scarpa at the end of the fifties and has been in its original state for several years. What a showroom!

 

 

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 3: Susanne Gaensheimer

Susanne Gaensheimer, curator in 2011/2013; photo: Renato Ribeiro Alves
Susanne Gaensheimer, curator in 2011/2013; photo: Renato Ribeiro Alves

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

Udo Kittelmann, born in Dusseldorf in 1958, is since November 2008 director of the National Gallery in Berlin. From 2002-2008 he was director of the Museum of Moderen Art in Frankfurt am Main (MMK), and 1994-2001 he was director of the Cologne Kunstverein. Udo Kittelmann is the curator of many exhibitions at home and abroad and is the author of numerous publications on contemporary art.

"House u r " is a residential building in Ubnterhydener Straße in Mönchengladbach's Rheydtn district, the hometown of the artist Gregor Schneider. The designation is derived from the initial and final letter of the street name.
At the same time, it stands for the concepts in German "umbauter Raum" ("converted space") and "unsichtbarer Raum" ("invisible space"). Dead Housse refers to the yorks taken from House u r
and reconstrutcted for the isntallation in Venice.

See Paul Schimmel, "Life's Echo: Gregor Schneider's Dead House u r" in: Gregor Schneider, Ausst.-Kat. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York, Milan 2003, p. 104 and p. 226
See also Juliane Heynen, "Ver-Bergen", in: Gregor Schneider, Ausst.-Kat. Kunsthalle Bern 1996, pp. 19-24.