janet grau

seit ich ihn gesehen

Seit ich ihn gesehen – Reflexionen zu Robert Schumann in der Kunst

Curating, participatory project, photography, video, installation, 2010

On the occasion of Robert Schumann’s 200th birthday in 2010, the Kunstsammlungen Zwickau invited me to create an exhibition dealing with the reception of Robert Schumann and his music in the visual arts from the 19th to the 21st century. The director of the museum, Petra Lewey, wanted an exhibition that would not only “attempt to approach the composer on a theoretical level, i.e., a cultural-historical overview of his reception, but would also use contemporary strategies in the visual arts to allow visitors to experience Robert Schumann and his music – both visually and emotionally – in a new way.”

For Seit ich ihn gesehen – Reflexionen zu Robert Schumann in der Kunst (Since I First Saw Him – Reflections on Robert Schumann in the Arts), I brought together some 250 very heterogeneous artefacts, including artworks from various collections as well as widely varying interpretations of Schumann and his work from the worlds of art, literature, film, design, and merchandising. I organized them into seven thematically related areas, often juxtaposing them with my own works created for the exhibition. It was important to me not only to document Schumann’s impact on the art world, but also to trace the path of his influence to the present.

I worked with various people (including music historians, collectors, young musicians, music enthusiasts, school children, students) to create a series of new artworks for the exhibition. I created several photo and video works, including eight music videos for love songs by Schumann (produced in collaboration with students from the Clara Wieck Gymnasium in Zwickau), as well as various installations, a poster competition (a fictional image campaign for Robert Schumann), and interactive digital works (including a collection of YouTube videos of people from around the world playing Schumann’s music). Several of these works were acquired by the Robert Schumann Haus in Zwickau after the exhibition and are now on permanent display there.

A dynamic program of events offered museum visitors many opportunities to participate, such as the Tango Schumann workshop led by London performance artist Anthony Howell and South African dancer Lindi Köpke.

"Janet Grau has explored the person of Robert Schumann in his music in an original and also very contemporary way. It is a mixture of cultural-historical research and artistic staging. It is also a kind of mixture of high art and popular everyday culture. On the one hand, there are high-caliber Schumann portraits and Schumann illustrations by Odilon Redon, for example, Max Pechstein, pop artist Roy Lichtenstein and Alfred Hrdlicka. And on the other hand, these works of art are contrasted with collector's plates, beer mugs, cigar bands and even 20th century incense sticks of the Träumerei brand – in other words, the sublime, the trivial, high and low. Everything very close together."

Radio interview with Andreas Höll, Arts Editor, MDR Figaro:

Read an essay from the catalogue:

Read a review from art-magazin.de:

When I was first approached with the idea of creating this exhibition for the Kunstsammlungen Zwickau, my first thought was, “I don’t even know his music!” – I didn’t have a single melody in mind. That was the spark that started this process of discovery and imagination.

I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the dozens of people who participated in this project, who helped me to get to know Robert Schumann and his music – and who helped me to help others to get to know him.

seit ich ihn gesehen
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