The Generali Foundation Collection will be entrusted to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg as a permanent loan. To find out about the meaning of this partnership and the first exhibition read the interview with the MdM director Sabine Breitwieser.
Kristina Kulakova: You were the founding director of Generali Foundation. What does the partnership between MdM Salzburg and Generali Foundation mean to you?
Sabine Breitwieser: I feel I am taking over a responsibility for the works that have been acquired and for the artists whose work has been put in a special context within the collection. From the outset, when I started to work for this institution—in the beginning not even in the function of the director and without a museum space — artists and dealers questioned the status of the institution and whether their works will be saved or sold to a corporate collection.
KK: What will this new partnership between Generali Foundation and MdM mean to the Salzburg contemporary art scene?
SB: Well, the history of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg is, not unlike that of other museums, one of failed opportunities: the original Guggenheim project meant to be built in the rocks; the Batliner collection for which the museum building on the Mönchsberg was eventually built. Of course, it also gained a lot, the federal photographic collection, other long-term loans, but really lacks a substantial collection providing a high profile for the museum. The Generali Foundation Collection is widely known for its profile, for its holdings of critically and engaged art, which it acquired from artists before large museums were aware of its importance. It has a history of exhibitions and exhibition making that I will certainly continue here at the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg within the frame of the entire program. In addition, Generali Vienna will also support to present, maintain and also to continue to acquire works for the collection. Overall ,it’s a true partnership in which two institutions joined forces to improve their performance but also to secure it over a long time.
KK: Would you say that this partnership is building a new image of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg?
SB: I believe so, because so far the museum’s identity, what it is standing for, its DNA, when we think about the collection, was still quite vague. It started out with a collection of prints, and then photography was added. When I arrived at the museum the overall topic was defined as “the human figure”. So I am asking, what are we humans facing today, or struggling with since modernity strived for a universal language, for democracy, for education? Artists engaging in sociopolitical issues, trying to understand the present from the past do raise important questions, in fact often not so different from the issues scientists are confronting us with. If we believe that the museum is an educational institution because it is a place for memory, where we can learn from the culture and think of our societies also into the future, we can make a case here working with this collection.
KK: Do you think that the partnership between MdM and Generali Foundation is a model to be followed by other museums, too?
SB: I believe this is a very special model that came out of a unique situation and that each museum and each collection has its different story. Of course, as museum directors we need to cope with the lack of acquisition budgets and at the same time pay attention to existing collections. Again, I believe museums also have a responsibility to secure important collections. Every week we can learn from a once ambitious collection sold at auction houses and dispersed. That’s not necessarily always bad because it’s also good if art works return into the market. However, once a certain narrative was created through a collection it can be a huge loss if it gets dissolved again.
KK: What are your plans for the MdM?
SB: I would like to shed light on the generic role of this museum writing history through artifacts. What is the history we should keep alive in this place and to whom do we talk to in this place? How should we engage with artworks and collaborate with artists today? I also believe it’s time to open the museum—hey, we are operating in a festival city—to a more open notion of art, works reaching beyond disciplines and media and combining and crossing over fields. The museum has organized a series of topical exhibitions addressing the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk, the total work of art, artists using all kinds of media and institutions outside the gallery space. Here we need to follow up and deepen our research and engagement.
KK: How are you planning to present the collection? Will it have its own identity? How do you plan to associate it with the museum’s existing collection?
SB: We will dedicate an entire floor—not unlike any other museum—to tell a story of art through our collections. In the future, we can organize much better exhibitions with works from our various collections and the Generali Foundation Collection will play a significant role in this undertaking. We will be able to offer a much wider scope of art and our audience will learn a great deal from these collection displays. The existing holding from the region, prints and photography and the other long-term loans will nicely play together.
KK: When will the first exhibition be organized?
SB: We have planned this for Spring, at the end of April, and I am truly excited about it. The first presentation will be exclusively dedicated to the Generali Foundation Collection because we really would like to proudly present it to our publics.
KK: What is your opinion on the Austrian contemporary art scene?
SB: Austria is, of course, a rather small country—a critic entitled an art magazine devoted to Austria’s art scene once as “island Austria”—and we do have great artists and some are very successful on an international level. In general, artists in Austria have great opportunities to travel and spend some time in state-funded studios abroad. Few of them have had experience with the phenomena of the international museum world and the art market. Artists in Austria operate in a rather protected environment that has good and down sides, of course.
KK: What is good art?
SB: Good art makes me think about things, offering me a new perspective and presenting this in an intriguing way.
Sabine Breitwieser is the Director of the Museum der Moderne – Rupertinum Salzburg (since September 2013). Previously she was the Chief Curator of Media and Performance Art at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Founding Director and Chief Curator of the Generali Foundation in Vienna.