Portrait of the curator Felicity Korn in the Kunstpalast.

#3 Deep Dive Kunstpalast - Interview with curator Felicity Korn

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"It's not often in the life of an art historian that you get to rethink an entire museum."

Art historian Felicity Korn is the curator responsible for the collection of 20th and 21st century paintings and sculptures at the Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf. As strategic director, she was responsible for the redesign of the venerable museum in Düsseldorf's Ehrenhof together with the general director Felix Krämer and the curator Westrey Page. For the third part of Deep Dive Kunstpalast, we spoke to her about her exciting work behind the scenes of the collection.

After three years of renovation and five years of preparations behind the scenes, the new Kunstpalast opened last November. How did it feel?
As I aptly said to the traditional first visitors to all our exhibitions - the children at the preview: 'It felt like a birthday, Christmas, Easter, St. Martin's Day and St. Nicholas Day all rolled into one. It was totally overwhelming after all the time we put into it. I consider it a huge privilege that the city of Düsseldorf has supported us so much in our new vision of the Kunstpalast and has put its trust in us. It's not often in the life of an art historian that you get to rethink an entire museum.

How did the redesign of the Kunstpalast come about?
When Felix Krämer and I came to the Ehrenhof in 2017, it was clear that the old building was in need of renovation and we took this as an opportunity to fundamentally redevelop the museum. We had the amazing building framework and asked ourselves: How do we get the museum in there? How do we want to design the tour? How do we distribute the epochs and collection areas across the 5,000 square meters we have available? The Kunstpalast worked as an exhibition space, but it wasn't really perceived as an art museum - we wanted to change that. Even if it took five years of planning and three years of renovation.

What aspects were important to you when curating the many works of art for the Kunstpalast?
Previously, there were two different entrances to the Kunstpalast. Now we have a closed tour. Previously, the collection was divided into individual areas and there were a few breaks. We have now proceeded strictly chronologically, each room has its own fixed period. Due to the seven different areas of the collection and the many cultural contexts from which the exhibits originate, the date of origin was a good common denominator - it is a neutral value with which we do not intervene so much from the outside. It is very important to us that we let the exhibits speak for themselves and don't impose too much interpretation. We had the feeling that this neutral framework is more inclusive and allows more artworks to speak for themselves.

What was fundamentally important for the new way of experiencing the artworks?
For us, it's all about the art. All doors are open. There is no threshold and you always feel welcome. Every work has an object text and this is always the same length - regardless of whether it's the famous Rubens or a painting by a previously unknown artist. Every work of art is treated equally and you can engage with every work of art.

From digitalization to participation - what does the Kunstpalast offer its visitors?
For us, it is immensely important that everyone feels addressed at the Kunstpalast and that there are no inhibitions about having fun. We are in a museum, but you are allowed to laugh and please bring your children and have lively discussions in front of the artworks. Every visitor group has different needs and we try to address these at all levels. Whether through our Tonies audio guide for children, the digital experience via the Kunstpalast app or the studio integrated into the tour where you can take courses. There are always new ideas and we try out a lot. We organize the Palastrauschen for younger visitors or offer district days under the title "Dein Kunstpalast" (Your Kunstpalast), where we invite entire Düsseldorf districts to the museum free of charge.

How can one imagine the work of a curator?
The exhibitions that we prepare take up most of our time. I'm currently working on four exhibition projects for the next few years. Apart from that, as a curator you are very busy looking after the collection and looking after the loan of our works. You work with conservators, clarify logistical and art-historical issues and take care of new acquisitions - like at Art Düsseldorf. I travel a lot to art fairs and international exhibitions such as the Biennale or Art Basel and try to see numerous exhibitions by colleagues to gain inspiration.

How do you actually become a museum curator?
I studied art history in Karlsruhe and was lucky enough to get a traineeship at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt - with Felix Krämer, who was head of the modern art collection at the time. He directly involved me a lot in curatorial projects. We realized various exhibitions together. I then came to Düsseldorf as his advisor in 2017 and managed the strategy as part of the renovation. Then my current position as curator became available - and since then I've realized every day that it's exactly what I always wanted to do.

What tip do you have for exploring the collection in the best possible way?
You can walk through the Kunstpalast with your eyes wide open and simply see what appeals to you - just follow your nose. The Kunstpalast app provides a good guide, is informative and fun. You should bring time and comfortable shoes - the rest happens by itself.

When is the Kunstpalast at its best?
At the weekend, when it's full to bursting. I'm delighted that the new Kunstpalast has been so well received.

kunstpalast.de

Interview: Karolina Landowski
Photos: Kunstpalast
Main photo: Andreas Endermann

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