“Art is something very playful and fun to us. If you take it too seriously and collect with a strict strategy, it’s less connected to your heart.” 

The Head of the Young Circle of the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, Julie Schemann, tells us about the process of acquiring work for the museum and her experience of running a contemporary art gallery in Berlin.

FAM: As Head of the Young Circle of the Pinakothek der Moderne, what do you see are the advantages of being a member of this kind of initiative?
Julie Schemann: We organize a really fabulous art program for our members, with two events per month on average. We visit shows, meet directors, artists, and gallerists, and also follow the curators of the Pinakothek der Moderne selecting a piece by a young artist—an acquisition financed by the association. We also organize annual trips to art capitals such as Vienna, Amsterdam, Köln, or Berlin, which are always enjoyable and illuminating.

Seher Shah, The Expansion Complex II, 2009. Images: © Juliane Spaete

Could you tell us about the process of building up the youngest collection for the Pinakothek der Moderne. What are your criteria when acquiring contemporary art? Does an artist have to have had a certain trajectory to be considered for the collection?
Collecting for a public museum holds other responsibilities than collecting for your own private household. The museum is owned by the state and can’t take too big a risk when acquiring new work, so naturally the artist has to have had a certain amount of success already. A museum is not a talent scout for artists fresh out of college. Another thing to consider is that the piece has to fit into the existing collection.

You have lived and worked as a gallery director in Berlin for a long time and decided to move to Munich a few years ago. How does Munich’s art scene compare to Berlin?
Munich may be small in size but the art scene here is of a very high standard. Munich is a wealthy city and many people here work in the arts, running such cultural institutions as the opera, the theater or the ballet. A handful of smaller galleries or so-called “off spaces” also represent really interesting new artists, and museums like the Pinakothek der Moderne, the Museum Brandhorst or the Haus der Kunst are just fantastic, as is the city’s art academy. Sometimes I miss the provocations of a lively and diverse art scene—what you get in Munich is quite established and homogeneous, but young curators and gallerists are working to change that, and to be honest I hardly ever manage to see all the emerging art exhibited here.

Julie Schemann

You take a keen interest in young artists in and around Munich, regularly visiting exhibitions. Who are your favorites at the moment?
Yes, I go whenever I can and see what seems interesting to me. I like Flaka Haliti and Petrit Halilaj as well as Veronika Hilger, Inga Kerber and then of course I have my grown-up superstar favorites like Cindy Sherman, Peter Doig, and so so many more!

Do you follow certain guidelines when you buy art?
Not really, my husband and I buy what we love, what we want to look at, and what fits the budget at the time. Art is something very playful and fun to us. If you take it too seriously and collect with a strict strategy, it’s less connected to your first instinct and your heart. I often also really like something but don’t see it living with us.

Images: © Juliane Spaete

What would you say is your favorite piece from your own collection? 
One of my current favorites is probably a work by Petrit Halilaj, a young artist from Kosovo who participated in the Venice Biennale in 2013. The work was a birthday present from my husband. It makes me super happy. The work stands on the ground and depending on the light reflects or creates shadows on the wall. In this series, Petrit used children’s drawings and turned them into metal installations.

What about your children? Have they taken on your passion for the arts?
They have to go to the museums quite a bit and hate it so far, but I am sure they will be grateful one day. My nephew is extremely talented, it’s insane to watch him draw and paint. I am so curious to see where his young passion will take him. I hope he never loses that strong interest, fantasy, and concentration. All kids are artists though and all are collectors of their own art. They are so observant and a lot of things that seem wholly unspectacular to us are utterly magical to them.

Jonah Gebka, o.T., 2011 and Petrit Halilaj, Ein Vogel

Your bright colorful house has a strong Indian theme to it. Where does your interest in Indian art and culture come from?
I once had a gallery for contemporary Indian art and my brother and his family lived in India for 7 years. I have been there countless times. I just really love a lot of what India has to offer in terms of color and style. People either seem to love it or hate it as a country but however cruel, diverse, and difficult the country is I have always delighted in its inherent dichotomies and simply adore it!

We would like to know more about your experience of running a contemporary Indian art gallery in Berlin. 
When running a gallery you come into contact with lots of different collectors and it was extremely valuable to see what kind of art different people are drawn to and of course to find out why. Working in a contemporary art gallery also requires a variety of different skills—you are not just running a small business and team, but also answering to the different expectations of the gallery’s artists and their ideas as well as developing new concepts for exhibitions. 

Do you have any work from that period?
I have two large works that are very dear to me by two of the artists we showed in Berlin, one by Dayanita Singh and the other by Seher Shah. Dayanita Singh is of course well-known in Germany, having been featured in the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2013. She was also the artist we had our first opening with at Nature Morte Berlin and I recall the excitement of preparing our first exhibition with great fondness—although in reality it was probably very hectic! These works always remind me of that period in my life. I worked with beautiful people and learned a great deal!

Learn more about the Young Circle of the Pinakothek der Moderne.

Interview by Juliane Spaete