Did you have any connection with Dresden before your appointment as Director General?
When I was studying in Munich, I often visited the German Hygiene Museum Dresden. For a long time, it was my favourite museum, because I was able to learn a great deal from its incredibly relevant anthropological exhibitions such as Darwin and Darwinism. In 2014, I worked with Hartwig Fischer on an exhibition about Max Slevogt and Paul Klee in Egypt, which was staged in both Dresden and Düsseldorf. When it came to Düsseldorf, I included the Egyptian artist Wael Shawky, who is famous for his puppet shows about the medieval crusades. If I’d been here then, I would certainly have recommended to the Dresden Puppet Theatre Collection that they did a production with him. This multidisciplinary combination of history and the present, this way of thinking outside the box really appeals to me.
You are an expert in the field of classical modernism, and yet you’ve now been put in charge of the artistic treasures of Saxony. How do you intend to reconcile that?
My role here is as Director General, so my own area of special interest is only one among many. After 20 years in the field of modernism and the present, I’m pleased to distance myself somewhat from the contemporary art market and to immerse myself in the historically grown variety.
In recent years, almost all of the Dresden collections have been relocated, redesigned or presented in new ways. What’s the next move?
If anyone tells you that a presentation format is definitive for all time, this is the death knell for any collection. We must constantly ask ourselves why we are doing what we do – as this particular individual, in this particular year and for this particular audience. The great quality of the Dresden collections is that they always allow new correlations to be drawn and they pose new questions that make them exciting for audiences of any age. Having such a great team of directors constitutes a big opportunity for us – the age range, the gender balance, the experience that comes from different backgrounds and cultures. Take for example the Director of the Ethnographic Collections, Nanette Jacomijn Snoep. She comes from the French tradition of the Musée du Quai Branly. The Director of the Residenzschloss, Dirk Syndram, has been helping to shape the reconstruction of the Royal Palace for the past 23 years. There must be a formal framework for collaboration, in which things are decided on a pragmatic basis – plus an informal framework that promotes lateral thinking and mutual learning. It will be a crucial part of my job to enter into an appropriate debate with all of them – and with the public too – about the way in which these historic collections are presented.