Learning to See in a Visual World



For Christiane Lange, Director of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, museums are places that offer the opportunity to find individual answers, especially in times of crisis. She explains that art can be effective even when it isn’t didactically and politically correct.

[Translate to english:] Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
[Translate to english:] © Staatsgalerie Stuttgart

ifa: How has the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (State Gallery of Stuttgart) been faring since the start of the corona crisis? How has the current situation changed the work of your museum and its conception of itself?

Christiane Lange: After the abrupt two-month closure, the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart has been open again since 12 May. The usual hygiene and social-distancing rules apply, such as compulsory masks, data collection, disinfection, and controlling the directional flow of visitors through the exhibitions. Everything is running smoothly. Unfortunately, we're only receiving about 30-40% of the usual visitors, which means a big loss of income for us. Of course, we can also only make a fraction of the events and guided tours typically offered within our educational programme available. Fortunately, we did not have to change the exhibition programme since the exhibitions in 2020 are based almost exclusively on works from our own collection.

ifa: How do you address your public under the changed conditions? What kind of public do you expect and what do you expect from your public?

Lange: Even as we were having to close our doors, we started increasing our digital presence, and despite reopening, we have continued to maintain this new presence. This allows us to partially compensate for having to limit our educational programme.

ifa: What do you consider to be the primary social tasks of your museum?

Lange: The museum is a place where we can use the universal language of the visual arts to negotiate current issues in ways other than the usual discourses. Especially at a time when we are dealing with intangible fears, museums are places where individual answers can be found.

ifa: How should museums convey and reflect stories, images, and narrative patterns?

Lange: The Staatsgalerie offers a wide range of educational programmes, from classical guided tours to dialogue in front of the pieces, from lectures to playful arts-and-crafts activities or making music. Still, I believe that the art itself has enough to tell. We just have to allow ourselves the time to understand its language. And we learn this language only in dialogue with the art. The place for this is the museum.

ifa: Do you see your museum as a place of political discourse?

Lange: Certainly. Art is always in its time and thereby also political. Even pieces by the artist Gerhard Richter, who himself describes his work as apolitical, are, with half a century of distance, an expression of political reappraisal and a statement on current events.

ifa: How can museums today be responsible and represent international and post-national states?

Lange: Museums have to trust art. Art is effective even when it isn't didactically and politically correct. As long as we as a society afford ourselves the luxury of maintaining public museums, this is per se a responsible act. Art has always spoken an international language. The idea of the nation state was born in the 19th century, but by the 20th century, it was already outdated. At no time has art allowed itself to be completely appropriated.

ifa: How can museums today be responsible and represent international and post-national states?

Lange: An art museum should be a public place.

  • A place for learning to see in a visual world.
  • A place for learning a universal language.
  • A place that gives me strength.
  • A place that also enriches me spiritually.
  • A place of peace.
  • And, at the same time, it should be a place of lively exchange.

Professor Dr. Christiane Lange is Director of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart

MuseumsNow

Under the title 'MuseumsNow', ifa asked actors from international museums about their current experiences, challenges and visions –  also against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic. The interviews and reports provide an insight into current museum practices and civil society actions of museums worldwide.

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