An interview with Christa Häusler
François Morellet: Sky-Lines and Sun-Strips, 2006
Foto: © Häusler Contemporary
Changing perspectives on art in the commercial world. The deeply committed change-makers are Art historian Christa Häusler and her husband Wolfgang who have been supporting companies in integrating art with architecture for the past three decades.
Christa Häusler met up with Dr. Ellen-Andrea Seehusen of International Arts Management, to discuss their motivation to bring art, architecture and people together, and how they are working closely with companies, architects as well as artists to guide a confluence in perspectives. “The idea is to go beyond the gallery context and expand into a broader social context,” says Christa.
With Häusler Contemporary and gallery spaces in Munich, Zurich and Lustenau Germany, they represent international contemporary art with a focus on conceptual positions. Häusler Contemporary programs have included famous names of the Post Minimal era, group shows, and individual exhibitions including artists such as Hamish Fulton, Mary Hellmann, Gary Kuehn, and James Turrell.
Felice Varini: Five Dancing Circles, 2009; Foto: © Häusler Contemporary
On the architectural front, Christa has worked intensively with the Versicherungskammer Bayern in Munich to bring art into the company’s new buildings. The insurance company Munich Re in Munich has realized a number of projects with Häusler, including Hamish Fulton’s wall painting for Schloss Hohenkammer in Bavaria and James Turrell’s light installation for the new chapel at Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof in Berlin.
A meticulous process to catalyse change
Advising companies on installing art in their buildings and architectural projects has always been a major part of their business concept since they came to Munich in 1986. The impressive body of work built over the years is an outcome of a methodical process that has helped facilitate new perspectives in the corporate world on the meeting ground between art and architecture.
The very first step in this process is to conduct detailed research the company, studying its products, core values, interests, challenges and its overriding culture. They also closely study the architectural structure of the building, working closely with the architect to select potential positions for art in the building.
Hamish Fulton: Slowness; Foto: © Häusler Contemporary
The approach is then arrived at based on a combination of these parameters. “There are various ways to approach an architectural project,” explains Christa, “You could propose a concept related to the company’s businesses, or in relation to the architecture, or you could propose very free and avant-garde ideas for the concept.” Once this is decided, various thematic possibilities are proposed to the company, usually a committee headed by the CEO and the architect. After intense discussions, a theme is selected, following which they present the works of a variety of artists. This step is extremely important as most of them are “uninitiated” about art. And as Christa points out. “If they do not understand what you want to bring them, they will reject it.”
Following this step, the shortlisted artists are invited to develop a wide variety of independent concepts, often through a competition. Only after this is the final decision made on the concepts to commission.
Selecting the right artist is extremely important for the success of each project. And the Häuslers are well placed to make this choice. In most cases for commissions, they prefer to choose experienced artists. “As an advisor, you have responsibility for the company as well as for the artist: you cannot put the artist in a situation where he may fail,” explains Christa. The artists are therefore selected based on their experience, the quality of work, the budget fit – and finally, the willingness to do it.
Keith Sonnier: Verbindung RotBlauGelb, 2002; Foto: © Häusler Contemporary
Another important step in the entire process is the right communication to prepare employees for the art that they will see exhibited in their working environment. The Häuslers recommend proactive communication about the art, a meeting with the artist to explain the concept, as well as guided tours of the structure before it is opens. This way, Christa explains, it’s not only the CEOs that communicate about the art, but also employees at all levels.
Mutual value for the arts and the company
The Häuslers believe that the value of adding art in architecture is not just a way of garnering support for the arts. While that too is important, Christa believes that by investing in art, a company derives much more value for itself. For, companies are excessively focused on their business, which often leads to a mundane work routine. It’s important to break this routine, she says, by bringing art into the company and creating some disturbances because in the long run, people react and widen their perceptions. “It’s an inspiration for their perception of reality and everyday life, as they get impulses they haven’t had before. “Art inspires and provokes new visions,” stresses Christa, “These may be tiny experiences, but they are intense. So, it’s very important to do this.”
Art results in a positive change in the entire attitude of the company and its appearance to the public, she points out. It has a positive effect on the business, customers and the reputation of the company. In fact, they have seen big international companies who have also made financial gains through their engagement in art, because an informed and educated public likes to go to a company that is culturally engaged.
Franz West: Generally, 2007; Foto: © Häusler Contemporary
Christa’s advice to any company planning to initiate an art program is a big Yes! “You can only win,” she says. “Because there are so many positive aspects to engaging with art. You bring so much energy into your building which you would not have without art, and this energy can have so many aspects: for employees, for the building itself, and for the reputation of the company.”
Interview: Ellen-Andrea Seehusen
Photos: Häusler Contemporary