Issue 5: Julian Heynen

1. As a curator of the German Pavilion, you presented works by Candida Höfer and Martin Kippenberger in 2003, and the artists Thomas Scheibitz and Tino Sehgal in 2005. What was your best experience as a curator in Venice?

Portrait of Julian Heynen; Photo: Jeanne Hofer
Portrait of Julian Heynen; Photo: Jeanne Hofer

Julian Heynen: As 2003, shortly before the opening, Björk came into the pavilion, saw the newly completed "Metro Ventilation Shaft" by Kippenberger, nodded her head and gave it a thumbs-up. And in 2005, when people I knew sang to me "This is so contemporary" (after Tino Sehgal) on the Biennale site.

2: Compared to other curators of the German Pavilion, you have not touched on the historical heritage of the building, which was redesigned in 1983 by the National Socialists. What did you want to show with your contributions?

From left to right: Sven Bergmann, former spokesman of the art collection of North-Rhine Westphalia; Candida Höfer; Julian Heynen; Photo: Ralph Müller, Candida Höfer-Stifung
From left to right: Sven Bergmann, former spokesman of the art collection of North-Rhine Westphalia; Candida Höfer; Julian Heynen; Photo: Ralph Müller, Candida Höfer-Stifung

Julian Heynen: From a German person, this question is almost like a Pavlovian reflex: I was and am of the opinion that you can not instrumentalise the Nazi origins of the building, and use that to legitimise long-running themes in the exhibitions it hosts.
I wanted to show good works of art that are relevant to their time. If there was something, like a background theme, the pictures by Candida Höfer and the "METRO Net Ventilation Shaft" by Martin Kippenberger questioned the role of the place in times of globalisation and digitisation, etc.
And with Thomas Scheibitz and Tino Sehgal, it was the question of the specificity of different artistic media in a time of crossover.

3. The Venice Biennale is the oldest exhibition of fine arts in the world. What is your social and artistic task today, in your opinion?

La Biennale di Venezia (Giardini), 2011 Photo: Bas Boerman (CC BY-NC 2.0), via Flickr
La Biennale di Venezia (Giardini), 2011 Photo: Bas Boerman (CC BY-NC 2.0), via Flickr

Julian Heynen: Its importance has been put into perspective, firstly because of the global competition among similar events and, secondly, because of their inherent commercialisation as part of "event culture". As the Venice Biennale began as a "European " nationality show, it might be interesting today to show the variety and disparity of conceptions of art on a global scale- paradoxically, to work towards the establishment of pavilions for all nations. This may be unrealistic, but perhaps it would put the fallacy of "Global Art" into perspective.

3 1/2. And finally: your personal secret tip for Venice? Where did you feel particularly at home in this city?

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is one of the best conserved six leading schools (italian = "scuole") in Venice. It is famous for its various paintings made by Jacopo Tintoretto. (Photo: Emma Cragg [CC BY-NC-SA] 2.0), via Flickr)
The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is one of the best conserved six leading schools (italian = "scuole") in Venice. It is famous for its various paintings made by Jacopo Tintoretto. (Photo: Emma Cragg [CC BY-NC-SA] 2.0), via Flickr)

Julian Heynen: Honestly, I used to have a somewhat ambivalent relationship to Venice- along the lines of : Who actually likes living in a museum? But working for a long time in the city has certainly reconciled me with it.  I do not have an insider tip to give because that would probably mean it was no longer a secret. But I feel at home, for example, where there are pictures of Tintoretto- and not just in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.

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; photo: Renato Ribeiro Alves
Susanne Gaensheimer; 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 4: Udo Kittelmann

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

Julian Heynen, born in 1951, is an art historian, independent curator and author on contemporary art. From 2009 to July 2016, he was curator of the Kunststolle Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf.
After studying History of Art and Literature, he completed an internship at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum/ Museum Ludwig in Cologne (1977-1978). Until 1980, he worked as a curator at the Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Museum in Duisburg.
From 1982-2000, Heynen was the exhibition director and deputy director of the Krefeld Art Museums (Haus Lange, Haus Esters, Kaiser Wilhelm Museum).
From 2001 to 2009, he took on the artistic direction of the commissiner of the German pavilion at the 50th and 51st Venice Biennale, and in 2008 co-curator of the Shanghai Biennale.
Between 2007 and 2010, he regularly made guest appearances as an expert in the art programme "Bilderstreit"  broadcast on 3Sat.