Friday, February 15, 2008

10 October: All About Art In Stuttgart

We had a fascinating speaker at the IWC monthly meeting this morning: Sean Rainbird, the new director of the Staatsgalerie, the state art museum in Stuttgart. He’s the first foreigner (he’s English, used to work for the Tate Gallery in London, has a German wife and speaks fluent German, which I’m sure helped get him the job) to be the curator of a major German art museum and gave us a completely open and honest look into the inner workings of the organization, including his frustrations in dealing with German beaurocracy and traditional cultural stereotypes (e.g. the different departments acting like they operate their own little fiefdoms), not to mention the difficulties in trying to expand the museum’s contemporary art collection after several decades of little to no growth. Imagine trying to grow your collection with an annual budget of as little as $100,000 when major works of art cost anywhere from a few hundred thousand to millions of dollars! The museum also poses challenges architecturally – it was designed by the renowned firm of James Stirling, Michael Wilford & Associates of London (which also designed the Clore Gallery, part of the Tate Museum), and we all got a good chuckle when Mr. Rainbird admitted that he didn’t think Stirling even liked art! I have not yet visited the gallery but now I really must go and see it for myself.

Mr. Rainbird had a great sense of humor and a very relaxed style, and we were all riveted for over an hour. At the end we explored opportunities to expand the museum’s audience and discussed such issues as whether the museum should continue to charge an entrance fee. After the presentation I chatted with Katrina, Judy, Ann, Shannon and others and also saw Glenda, who had been at our very first book club meeting back in January but returned to Texas after her husband passed away last spring.

It was a lovely day and I thoroughly enjoyed my walk to and from the U-Bahn station. I concentrated on soaking in the sights, sounds, and smells of a normal workday in Stuttgart: the sidewalks full of pedestrians going about their daily business (little old ladies pulling their rolling carts full of groceries, businessmen and women in stylish suits, moms pushing strollers, teenagers sporting tattered jeans and multi-colored hair chattering on their handys)…the whoosh of the bright yellow U-Bahn cars as they passed…the fragrant smell of fresh-baked bread wafting out of a corner Bäckerai…all set against the backdrop of Stuttgart-West’s 18th- and 19th-century Altbauen (literally “old buildings”) with their pointed turrets and ornate façades.

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