Did you know Amsterdam before you became director of the Stedelijk two years ago?
I’d never been here before, but Amsterdam has always been on my map, professionally speaking. While I worked at the Kunsthal in Zurich, we not only often collaborated with the Stedelijk, but I also had an eye on the great post-graduate programmes at the Rijksakademie and the Ateliers. I developed a lot of relationships here before making the move from Germany.
What do you feel is so special about the Stedelijk Museum?
I’ve always been one of the Stedelijk’s biggest fans. It is such an honour for me to work for a museum that is so deeply rooted in the collective memory of the people – not only of Amsterdam, but from all over the world. It’s a real institution, that people not only look at but look up to.
What direction is the museum taking with you at the helm?
We approach everything as a team, and our first, immediate project was to offer a strong presence to contemporary artists. While the collection is central to the museum, it is very special to bring it together with emerging artists such as Magali Reus or Jon Rafman. We even dedicated a whole year to the live art of Tino Sehgal. It creates a dialogue between history and the time we’re living in. That, to me, is the DNA of the Stedelijk.
Can you tell us about exciting upcoming projects?
At the moment we are showing a monumental exhibition of Jean Tinguely’s work. It’s very meaningful to us because he was so influential with the museum early on in his career, in the 1960s. He was given carte blanche to do whatever he wanted, which is very typical of the Stedelijk’s spirit. In the same vein, at the end of November, during Amsterdam Art Weekend, we’ll present Jordan Wolfson’s work in tandem with Tinguely’s. His spectacular animatronics which explore the capture of movement as well as the digitalisation of society will be amazing to see in parallel with the main exhibition.
How do you feel about Amsterdam’s cultural scene?
It’s a very active and cultural city, in so many domains, from arts to the theatre and even cuisine. There’s a deep-rooted attitude of curiosity and adventurous endeavours. The city is developing in all directions – North, South, West, and I like the experimental, grass roots spirit. People actively participate and the public is very engaged – Amsterdammers consider culture as part of their life, their family life.
Really, the cuisine?
People always complain about the food in the Netherlands, but what I find really amazing at the moment is that there’s an incredibly active scene for new restaurants, trying out new kitchens and new chefs.
What are some of your favourites?
The list is too long, but I love the concept of pop-up restaurants. De School in Bolo has a fantastic kitchen. The Marineterrein always has great spots too.
What about cultural institutions? I love our neighbours, obviously – the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Concertgebouw, but there are a lot of independent places that are really starting to grow, such as De Appel Art Centre. These are very important to connect the city with younger generations.
If you had one complaint…
The mopeds in bike lanes! Something needs to be done about this.
So is Amsterdam home to you? Definitely. I really enjoy working with the Stedelijk, so I’m planning on staying as long as possible. And just like all the major institutions recently finished all their beautiful renovations, I just finished those on my house!