Tulga Beyerle: “I want to re-introduce Dresden to the Kunstgewerbemuseum”

Since January 2014 Vienna born designer, curator and author Tulga Beyerle has been Director of the Dresden Museum of Decorative Arts – the Kunstgewerbemuseum. Representing a radical shift in policy by the authorities in Dresden, Tulga Beyerle’s appointment promises to transform a previously sleepy, conservative, museum into a new centre for contemporary design in Central Europe. The exhibition programme for 2014 is certainly a confident step in that direction, beginning as it has with “WerkStadt Vienna”, a documentation of the past seven years of Vienna Design Week’s Passionswege programme, and which will continue with “Trading Places. Designers meet the collection”, an exhibition which sees five contemporary design studios re-interpret an object from the museum’s collection, before moving on to Okolo Offline and an as yet unconfirmed fourth exhibition over the winter months. And this in a museum that until now never staged special exhibitions far less attempted to engage contemporary designers.

Not only is Tulga Beyerle’s appointment a radical shift for the Kunstgewerbemuseum it is also a radical shift for Tulga Beyerle herself who, as co-founder of Vienna Design Week and a regular contributor to exhibitions at the city’s Museum für angewandte Kunst, is and was one of the leading figures in the Austrian design community. The contrast between the creative hustle and energy of Vienna and the pastoral calm of Schloß Pillnitz, home of the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden, could hardly be greater.

And so at the opening of the WerkStadt Vienna Exhibition we spoke with Tulga Beyerle about the Vienna Design Week Passionswege programme and the coming season at Schloß Pillnitz, but began by asking why the decision to accept the post in Dresden…..

Tulga Beyerle: With all passion and fondness for Vienna Design Week and Vienna itself, it is always good to close a chapter and to begin something new; and for me personally I had simply reached a stage where I needed a new challenge and that ideally in a new location. And when I was invited to apply for the position here it took just one look at the map for me to understand the potential and the opportunities that are here; not least because of the proximity of Poland and the Czech Republic, two countries I know very well from my work with Vienna Design Week and which I know have eclectic, lively design scenes. And so ultimately it was a relatively easy decision to apply for the position and a real joy when I was awarded it.

(smow)blog: Until now the Kunstgewerbemuseum wasn’t known as an especially proactive institution. And it is closed from October till May. Were you not afraid it could be a little, well, quite here……

Tulga Beyerle: No not all. Firstly in terms of the winter months I have reached an agreement with the Dresden State Art Collections whereby in winter there will be a special exhibition in the city, it will no longer be the case that the Kunstgewerbemuseum is closed between October and May. In addition I am looking for other locations and possibilities in Dresden where we can present the museum, possibly in a more experimental, freer fashion. Not because I’m afraid that we won’t be able to attract enough visitors to Schloß Pillnitz, but much more I believe it is important that the Kunstgewerbemuseum is permanently visible and active, I want to re-introduce Dresden to the Kunstgewerbemuseum. And from my experience in Vienna bringing new life into an old Royal Residence City is something I’m very familiar with!

(smow)blog: Attracting visitors to Schloß Pillnitz is a nice keyword. Looking at the programme for 2014 the one exhibition that really attracts our attention is Okolo Offline. For us a fascinating if fairly left-field choice. Why the decision to bring Okolo Offline to Dresden?

Tulga Beyerle: I’ve know Okolo for several years now, am a huge admirer of their work and their approach to their work, and as I said one of the things that initially attracted me to the position was the proximity to the Czech Republic. Through presenting such a dynamic and autonomous design studio as Okolo here in Dresden we have an echo back to Prague, which is something that is very important for me, and so with an exhibition such as Okolo Offline we can hopefully start to develop a network and to offer a platform for that network. And in that sense we have also invited Dechem Studio from Prague to participate in the forthcoming Trading Places exhibition. It is, so to say, my way of encouraging this network and of demonstrating that a city such as Prague is a location where things are happening and that it makes sense, and is hopefully fun, to learn more about what is happening there.

(smow)blog: You’ve said that Vienna is your past and Dresden your future; however, looking back to Vienna, the Passionswege programme is one of the mainstays of Vienna Design Week, if not the main attraction. But when you started with Passionswege was there resistance, or perhaps better put, scepticism from the companies with whom you hoped to work……?

Tulga Beyerle: Yes, yes. It took an awful lot of explaining and convincing. There were exceptions such as J & L Lobmeyr who from the very beginning were very positive about the project and who took no convincing, but then there were those with whom we talked and talked and talked, but with whom no project materialised and then there are those companies where we invested a lot of time and effort in winning them round and who were ultimately overjoyed with the project. But that is something that is still the case, despite Vienna Design Week being so much more acknowledged, accepted and medial present now, there is still a lot of talking and convincing involved.

(smow)blog: To end a completely unfair, but also unavoidable question given the fact we are currently surrounded by Passionswege projects: do you have one or more favourite projects from the past 8 years of Passionswege?

Tulga Beyerle: Naturally! An absolute highlight for example was last years cooperation between Oscar Wanless and Riess Email, I found that simply fantastic, not least because it was so unexpected. Then there would be, for example, Tomás Alonso’s or Charlotte Talbot’s projects with Wiener Silber Manufactur, and of course Philippe Malouin’s Time Elapsed project with J & L Lobmeyr which hangs here. Not only is Time Elapsed a personal highlight for me, but it is a project which I’m really glad we can show in this space where it shines so much more than was possible in Vienna. Then there are those projects that worked so well because of the context and the location, projects which one can’t so easily explain far less reproduce. A good example would be the concept store developed by Vandasye together with Chronometrie Sulzberger, a project that was developed for that one location and which worked perfectly. But could only work in that one location. Such moments are always a real delight.

Tulga Beyerle

Tulga Beyerle - Dircetor Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden (Photo: Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden, © Katharina Gossow)

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