Art Basel Highlight 2018: a discussion entitled “Possession Obsession: What makes us collectors?” at my favourite place of the collectors lounge, the Vienna lounge. Moderated by KHM curator Jasper Sharp, the panel consisted of Emilie Gordenker, Director of the Mauritshuis in The Hague, Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery in London and KHM Director Sabine Haag.

Andy Hermann & Sabine Haag

Below, an interview with Dr. Sabine Haag as well as some key quotes from the rest of the speakers are presented. The event also provided an opportunity to draw attention to the upcoming Wes Anderson exhibition at the KHM in fall titled “Wes Anderson and Juman Malouf: The Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and Other Treasures”. It will be the latest in a series of shows that began with projects curated by Ed Ruscha (2012) and Edmund de Waal (2016).


What role does digitalisation and new technologies play in museum experiences?

We work closely with IT professionals and firms to integrate digital technologies even more into the museum experience. For example, we designed a smartphone app for visitors called KHM Stories-App. Also, we have introduced a new storage infrastructure and backup solution: to secure the numerous data of the museum.

What skills to do you look out for in your team?

An academic approach is very important, most of our staff are thoroughly trained. This approach is helping looking at objects in a narrow way, to understand the integrity of an object. But it is also important to widen the horizon, to get people from different professions

What do you think of a more unorthodox approach to organising exhibitions?

I think it’s good once in a while to follow a more unorthodox approach and to push boundaries, to take risks. This leads to new dialogue and debate; otherwise it gets too boring.

The forthcoming exhibition at the KHM is different from previous exhibitions. Are you afraid of backlash from your more traditional visitors. Vienna is still a rather traditional city; are you afraid of criticism?

Wes Anderson is a very popular director on a global level. Of course critics can arise, but a good and efficient communication of the upcoming exhibition can certainly help.

I’m touching on the role of risk, also briefly mentioned in the talk. What role does risk play in your position as Director of one of the leading museums in the world? How do you cope with it?

Risk definitely plays an important role. We need to push boundaries to grasp the interest of existing and future museum visitors, we need to stay fresh, think outside-the-box and open a debate.


“When organising exhibitions, never compromise or condescend. Put curators in charge, support their ideas and get behind their ideas. They are the people that shape exhibitions. Cancel other exhibitions which are not in line with curators passion or interest.”

“When organising new exhibitions, we usually proceed in the following two steps: 1. idea: the idea has to have integrity, rigour. It has to be well-researched. 2. Once the idea has been established, we think about how you can come across to the relevant audience”

-Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery in London

“The upcoming exhibition “Wes Anderson and Juman Malouf: The Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and Other Treasures” is “intuitively” curated. We gave Wes Anderson and Juman Malouf full creative and curatorial freedom. It might “cause flatters” from more traditional visitors.”

“A great example of an artist guest curated exhibition, is Raid the Icebox I, with Andy Warhol. It is regarded as one of most significant artist-curated shows to date.”

– Jasper Sharp, Curator, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

“The Mauritshuis recently underwent extensive renovation. The new wing offers more space for exhibitions and new innovative concepts which can involve our visitors in the museum experience: a good example is scientific research surrounding the Girl with a Pearl Earring painting by Johannes Vermeer, where a studio with a glass enclosure in the museum’s ‘Golden Room’ has been constructed. “

– Emilie Gordenker, Director, Mauritshuis in The Hague

Wes Anderson and Juman Malouf
Wes Anderson and Juman Malouf for #ViennaGoesWes. (© KHM – Museumsverband)

Thanks for reading



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