INTERVIEW Roger Diederen

Culture custodian at the Kunsthalle

Dutch-born art historian Roger Diederen is the irrepressibly passionate director of the world-class Kunsthalle Munich in the heart of the Bavarian capital. One of Germany’s leading exhibition venues, the Kunsthalle entices 300,000 visitors annually with an exciting roster of global arts, design and culture shows. Its director—in the role since 2013—has a blue-chip career portfolio that includes stints at the Research Centre of the Getty Museum in LA, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Roger Diederen Kunsthalle München

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, the Kunsthalle’s 100th presentation will be showcasing the work of a living legend in an exhibition entitled: Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. It will run from September 18, 2015 until February 14, 2016. There was a lot to find out when we caught up with Roger Diederen.

I didn’t grow up in an intellectual family—my mother was a housewife and my father a furniture maker—but they encouraged learning in the broadest sense. I remember, as a child, being deeply impressed with Rembrandt’s Nightwatch at the Rijksmuseum—imagine my delight when I later discovered that art history was an actual subject I could study at university!

Exhibitions are a form of storytelling, and I want to reach the widest audience possible with our art. We recently did a major exhibition on Bavarian Rococo, a truly important chapter in art history. People were blown away by the spectacular sculptures. A good exhibition doesn’t patronize—it simply points out why something is worth looking at.

My personal highlights at the Kunsthalle are the magnificent Pompeii show, which helped people understand daily life in a Roman town. The Keith Haring retrospective was a real re-discovery. Great works of art with a deep political dimension.

The Jean Paul Gaultier show is much more than a set of amazing gowns. Gaultier has always been in tune with what’s going on in society, and he translates this into haute couture. He has also shaped popular culture, dealing with gender issues and questioning ideals of beauty. Plus, of course, his amazing craftsmanship makes your jaw drop! On top of this, it’s the Kunsthalle’s 30th anniversary, and when there’s a party one likes to dress up, so that’s exactly what we’re going to do with this extraordinary show!

I’ve never been seriously involved with couture before our Jean Paul Gaultier event. Apart from appreciating nice clothes and knowing a few people in the fashion business, preparing for this show is my first in-depth encounter with the world of haute couture—it’s a nice experience, indeed.

Look for #JPGMUC for latest news on Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk.

Picture credits:
Left: Johann Baptist Straub, Archangel Raphael, around 1767, © Diözesanmuseum Freising.
Right: Patent leather corset worn by Madonna at the MDNA World Tour 2012, Photography © Emil Larsson.

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