janet grau

Mal schauen! Laien wählen Kunstwerke aus dem Depot

Mal schauen! Laien wählen Kunstwerke aus dem Depot

Curating, participatory project, 2012

“It’s a public collection, so it belongs to us. Let’s take a look and see what we have!”

This premise was the starting point for the project Mal schauen! Laien wählen Kunstwerke aus dem Depot (Let’s Take a Look! Non-experts select works of art from the depot). I invited various citizens of the city of Dresden to talk to me about art – to tell me what kind of artworks they like or would like to see in an exhibition – and to join me in an experiment. I asked them to choose artworks from the collection of the Kunstfonds, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (Art Fund Collection, Dresden State Art Collections) and to curate an exhibition as ‘non-experts’.

I worked with five different groups of people who otherwise don’t have anything to do with art (at least not professionally) to help them develop original ideas for an art show, which then became part of the large-scale exhibition in the Motorenhalle. Projektzentrum für Zeitgenössische Kunst (Project Center for Contemporary Art) in Dresden.

The participating groups were:

  • BLUE PEARLS CHEERLEADERS for the Dresden Monarchs
  • CLUB DER MÜNDIGEN BÜRGER from the Bürgerbühne at Staatsschauspiel Dresden
  • FAMILY G. (three generations of a Dresdner family)
  • MALWINA E.V. Team of the Beratungs- und Vermittlungsstelle für Kindertagespflege
  • WERBEGEMEINSCHAFT Dresden-Neustadt


In all, the project participants selected about 90 prints, paintings, photographs, sculptures, videos and installations from the Kunstfonds collection dating from 1949 to 2010.

The participating groups each tried to find artworks that would fulfill the criteria they had previously defined. My role as both artist and initiator of the project was to support and guide them, as well as to pre-select works for them to consider at the Kunstfonds depot. The participants came up with a title and a short text to accompany the artworks their group had selected for the exhibition. A catalogue documented each group’s selection in detail, and included two essays (see below).

"It's important to mention that many of these works hadn't been seen for a long time – without this unusual project, they wouldn't have had the best chance of being shown at any time in the near future."

Radio feature by Grit Krause, MDR Figaro:

Read essays from the catalogue:

Not every group was able to find what they were looking for among the works in the Kunstfonds collection. The youngest group of participants (the Blue Pearls cheerleaders) had a hard time finding the lively, cheerful, dynamic, and optimistic images of groups they had been hoping to find.

I decided to use this opportunity to create a new work for the exhibition, playfully treating the Blue Pearls’ criteria as if they were the requirements for a commissioned art piece – and to involve the cheerleaders in the process. I arranged for them to perform for the residents of the Clara Zetkin nursing home in Dresden, and the cheerleaders came up with their own choreography for the event. Together with Thilo Fröbel I documented the performance and then used the photos to create *gold* (image on the right). The photomontage light box was displayed along with the Blue Pearls’ selection from the Kunstfonds in the exhibition.

Many thanks to the participating groups who were curious and brave enough to join me in this experiment!

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