#ListeAsks Heike Munder, Director Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich

Heike Munder, Director Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, 
Credit: Gian-Marco Castelberg
Heike Munder, Director Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, 
Credit: Gian-Marco Castelberg

As you won’t be in Basel this June, what are you doing instead?
My team and I are going to work on and intensify the discussion about our digital strategies and the possibilities for our museum. Other than that, we are focusing on internal processes for which there is usually too little time. Since there will not be many international visitors this summer, we are also concentrating on the local guests. For example, there is a beautiful and comprehensive educational art magazine for kids called Art Detectives with riddles about our current exhibition, “Potential Worlds 1: Planetary Memories”.

What is something that you never thought would happen but that has now happened as a result of the lockdown?
The digital teamwork was a pleasant and effective experience which opened up new perspectives on working methods and local flexibility. But much more surprising is that the visitor numbers following the lockdown have been very high: Before, we were unsure how people would react to the easing of the lockdown. The visitors’ enthusiasm and interest is inspiring and shows the importance of experiencing art for the public.

In what ways has the current state of uncertainty and unpredictability changed your attitude or approach towards curating?
An important aspect of curating is to be able to plan and to be flexible at the same time, while also working closely together with the artist. In this time, such working methods are more needed than ever; luckily, we have practice in it. We had also already limited our research travels before the Corona crisis, both for ecological and time-related reasons, so this aspect did not and will not change through the current situation. One new effect is that it now seems easier to organise Zoom events with artists and experts from all over the world, which we welcome as an ecologically-conscious possibility for discussing exhibitions and art.

What kinds of actions do you think are most needed and/or most effective in supporting young artists during the current situation?
The question is how to stay visible, but also how to finance yourself. On the one hand, it is very important for young artists to use digital media to gain attention, to stay or become visible, and to use networks to express solidarity—to support artists through links and shares. But the direct, physical experience will always be important and we are more than happy that this is becoming possible again. One alternative we experienced are digital studio visits and talks with artists, for example. The governmental financial support for artists was of course also very helpful.

How can younger and less established galleries that are representing emerging and yet-to-be-discovered artists approach you as a curator in a time of online-only exhibitions, fairs, etc.? 
This question is not easy to answer: This time has shown how important it is to establish a wide-reaching online presence and to include younger artists. It is most promising to use pre-established tools like Instagram for a “quick win”, for a way to generates a lot of attention within a very short time.

Have you discovered any new artist during the lockdown?
Right now, we are not in a research phase. But I felt, during this time, the insight you gain from being physically at a fair or an exhibition was missing—the surprise of stumbling into something unknown, the spontaneous chats with artists and gallerists, the corporeal interaction with the art in front of you.

Can you tell us about one of the very first artists you discovered at Liste and how they’ve become important to or played a role in your curatorial practice?
I have attended Liste every single year since the very beginning and discovered several amazing artists. We’ve had solo shows with some of them: For example, in 2004, I saw works by Cory Arcangel in Team Gallery’s booth; one year later, we invited him to have a solo exhibition. The same year, Paul Noble exhibited at our museum, after he had attended Liste with his gallery Maureen Paley some years earlier. The gallery A Gentil Carioca was at Liste beginning in 2009; after they presented Laura Lima, we got to know her art and created a solo exhibition with her in 2013–2014. Also, Dr. Lakra, who was at Liste in 2002 with Kurimanzutto, was a discovery. Thus, you can see Liste has played an important role in my curatorial practice at the museum. I’m very much looking forward to having the chance to visit Liste again—no matter if it’s virtually or on-site—to get inspired.

A photo that for Heike Munder represents the current moment: Mark Dion, The Library for the Birds of Zürich, 2016/2020, Detail, Sammlung Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Exhibition view Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, photo: Lorenzo Pusterla. Our exhibition Potential Worlds 1: Planetary Memories had to close one week after its opening. The birds in Mark Dion’s Installation The Library for the Birds of Zürich (2016/2020) had to move back to their owners, and we also had to leave the museum for months. We are thus happy to be back now, together with the canary birds and zebra finches, to bring back life in the museum.
A photo that for Heike Munder represents the current moment: Mark Dion, The Library for the Birds of Zürich, 2016/2020, Detail, Sammlung Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Exhibition view Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, photo: Lorenzo Pusterla. Our exhibition Potential Worlds 1: Planetary Memories had to close one week after its opening. The birds in Mark Dion’s Installation The Library for the Birds of Zürich (2016/2020) had to move back to their owners, and we also had to leave the museum for months. We are thus happy to be back now, together with the canary birds and zebra finches, to bring back life in the museum.