In Profile: Julia Stoschek

The collector, primarily of digital and time-based art, explains why she is opening a space in Berlin


Julia Stoschek; photograph: Şirin Şimşek

Julia Stoschek; photograph: Şirin Şimşek

Kito Nedo  On 2 June, you’ll be opening a branch of your museum in Berlin. How long have you been thinking about the move?

Julia Stoschek  The question of whether to open a space in Berlin has always been there. I opened my museum in Dusseldorf 10 years ago and I certainly don’t regret it. We have 15,000 visitors a year. The city is an outstanding location, with an art-loving population and a thriving art scene. Many important artists live and work in the Rhineland. With the Art Academy and the various institutions it really is a vibrant location for art, which is why Dusseldorf will continue to be our main museum.

KN  So why Berlin?

JS  That’s easy to answer: Berlin is a must. The aim of all our projects has been to make the collection accessible to the largest possible audience. For a long time now, Berlin has not only been Germany’s political capital but also its art capital. And it has also become my second home, partly due to my work with the Kunst Werke – Institute for Contemporary Art Berlin.

KN  Your collection has been shown by institutions in Hamburg, Tel Aviv and Karlsruhe. Was that format not possible in Berlin?

JS  In Germany, and Europe in general, there are not so many institutions that show private collections. In 2010, when I was invited by Hamburg’s Deichtorhallen to show parts of my collection it was an incredible stroke of luck, and the first time outside of Dusseldorf. Basically, shows like this are only organized by museums based on the Kunsthalle model – institutions without their own collection. I’ve never received a similar request from a Berlin institution, so now I’m doing it myself!


Facade of the Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin. Courtesy: Julia Stoschek Collection

Facade of the Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin. Courtesy: Julia Stoschek Collection

KN  Your inaugural show in Berlin is titled ‘World On A Wire’, referring to the only science-fiction film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, made in the early 1970s. Why?

JS  We’re using the title figuratively, because the majority of the featured works are immersive in character and because Fassbinder’s film anticipates so many of today’s issues. Roughly speaking, the show deals with the digital age and its impact on our social reality, but also on nature and on our identities. That’s why I found the title appropriate.

KN  You will be presenting work by artists including Ed Atkins, Loretta Fahrenholz, Camille Henrot, Jon Rafman, Timur Si-Qin, Hito Steyerl, Britta Thie and Wu Tsang, amongst others, and your opening coincides with that of the 9th Berlin Biennale. What do you hope will be the effect of this timing and this choice of artists?

JS  There are overlaps, that’s quite clear. When I heard that DIS were curating this year’s Biennale, I knew that many artists included in our collection would be featured. Because I sit on the board of KW, I knew about these plans relatively early, and DIS also knew about ours. Many of the artists will be present – I think that’s great. It creates good synergies. I hope visitors will visit both the Biennale and our exhibition. While the Biennale is working with a hybrid, interdisciplinary concept, we are installing a classical exhibition. We see ourselves not as competitors, but as an interesting supplement to the Berlin Biennale.

KN  Will your activities in Berlin be limited to this one summer?

JS  It depends on how the exhibition is received and how it feels to be present in Berlin. That’s the good thing about a private collection, you can decide for yourself: Where do I want to be? How should it look? But the long-term plan is to operate a permanent exhibition space here alongside the main museum in Dusseldorf. In any case, I’m very much looking forward to opening the space.


Timur Si-Qin, SELECTION DISPLAY: ANCESTRAL PRAYER, 2011, display banners and Tibetan prayer flags, 150 x 50 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Sociéte, Berlin

Timur Si-Qin, Selection Display: Ancestral Prayer, 2011, display banners and Tibetan prayer flags, 150 x 50 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Sociéte, Berlin

KN  In an interview two years ago you said: ‘To build a new museum, based on my own wishes and ideas, that would be great.’ Did that lead to any offers?

JS  No, no one got in touch! But I must say I really would very much like to build a new museum from scratch. It would be exciting to realize a building that fulfilled the specific requirements of this highly technological art that I’m now showing and which I’m increasingly collecting.

KN  In Berlin you’ll be showing your collection in the former Czech Cultural Centre on Leipziger Strasse.

JS  It’s not a new building, but a classic East German prefab from the late 1970s. It has its own charm. The rooms have already been used to show art, they’ve even been used as a club. But they’re not typical exhibition spaces. I wanted to make sure we didn’t use a historical or post-industrial building. That was my guideline: no bunkers, no transformer stations, no water towers, no old factories. In my view, using such historical locations is passé, and to an extent it’s been overdone in Berlin. Our museum in Dusseldorf is a hundred-year-old former factory. It’s fantastic, but I don’t need a second building like that.

KN  In an ideal world, what would the art museum of your dreams look like?

JS  Conventionally, a museum is arranged horizontally – a rectangular hall where visitors wander from work to work. The works always hang in the same place. Media art implies the impossibility of the repeatable moment. A video work is constantly changing. As I see it, this means that media art, the moving image, calls for a different approach. I’ve never discussed this idea with an architect, and I ask myself what it would be like to realize three-dimensionality in an exhibition context. Maybe using a tower? It means thinking not in horizontal levels, but vertically. How can such added dimensions be experienced?


Ed Atkins, Even Pricks, 2013, HD video still. Courtesy: the artist and Cabinet, London

Ed Atkins, Even Pricks, 2013, HD video still. Courtesy: the artist and Cabinet, London

KN  What else would this kind of architecture have to offer?

JS  The question of the facade – that would need to be completely rethought, too. To create projection surfaces inside, light has to be blocked out. On the other hand, perhaps the facade itself could be used for projections.

KN  You’re known as a perfectionist, interested in every detail of an exhibition. Is that true?

JS  A perfectionist? Yes, that’s true. Media art has to be installed. Without an installation, it cannot be experienced. You always need a technical medium. Hence our aim to present each work as intended by the artist. Because the technology is also the basis for the content and the aesthetic. The work must be installed with precision. The technology, the dimensions of the space and the sound system must be carefully matched. My goal is to achieve this as well as possible. We want to be a museum for happy artists.

Julia Stoschek Collection Berlin (Leipziger Strasse 60 in Berlin’s Mitte district) opens 2 June with ‘Welt am Draht’ (World on a Wire), a show featuring 38 works by 20 international artists from the collection. The exhibition runs till 18 September, 2016.

Julia Stoschek (born 1975) is a German art collector, specializing in time-based media art. Stoschek first began buying art in 2003. Her collection features 700 works of digital and time-based-media art from the 1960s onwards. It includes video, multi-media environments, internet-based installations and performance. The Julia Stoschek Collection, housed in a former industrial building in Düsseldorf-Oberkassel, opened in 2007. Since the opening, she has mounted regular collection-based shows, including solo exhibitions by Cyprien Gaillard, Bruce Nauman, Elizabeth Price and Wu Tsang. Stoschek is a board member of the Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art.   

Kito Nedo lives in Berlin where he works as a freelance journalist for several magazines and newspapers. In 2017, he won the ADKV-Art Cologne Award for Art Criticism.

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