An Experience for All the Senses. An interview with Barbara Schmidt, new Head of Cultural department at the Handwerkskammer für München und Oberbayern

Published: 09.01.2024
Alexander Tauscher
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Barbara Schmidt.
Barbara Schmidt

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How Barbara Schmidt wants to develop this institution as the new Head of the Department for Craft Culture, Gallery Crafts, Trade Fairs and Exhibitions, Academy for Design and Design, Design and Monument Conservation Consulting?
Barbara Schmidt has been at the helm of the renowned Galerie Handwerk and the entire culture department since November 2023. She took over from Wolfgang Lösche following his retirement. Barbara Schmidt is very familiar with the gallery's themes, as she previously headed the Academy of Art and Design. In this interview, she talks about her views and her own relationship to craftsmanship.
Ms. Schmidt, you have big shoes to fill...?
Indeed. Wolfgang Lösche started as a working student at the Chamber of Crafts and spent his entire professional life in our culture department. He became an expert on the scene through the many facets of this work. Lösche knows many creative players, many institutions and every exhibit in the gallery or at the International Crafts Fair (IHM). With his keen eye and profound experience, he continues to be an authority on the creative and artistic crafts.

What personal connection do you have to both crafts and art?
I had already discovered my profession as a teenager at the IHM in the special show "Jewelry". There I saw the work of Erico Nagai, a jewelry artist from Munich. I was so fascinated that I wanted to become a goldsmith. After my vocational training and years of working with outstanding artists, I completed my master's degree and then studied both jewelry design and design management with a Master of Arts in Great Britain. For me, it was always about the artistic and creative aspect and the enthusiasm for the craft. That's why I also taught the basics of design at the Academy of Art and Design.

What experience from your previous work at the academy can you bring to the new level?
I know and use the tools for quality criteria, how to evaluate artistic work. Researching themes and protagonists is easy for me, as is assessing where the scene is heading. The development of special shows for the IHM is a very important aspect of the future task. I benefit from the fact that I used to develop special shows for the Inhorgenta jewelry fair. In addition, the Academy of Art and Design has been exhibiting at IHM itself for years. We have been very well connected with the exhibitors and creative players from the handicraft scene for a long time.

What expectations do you have of your role as director of the Galerie Handwerk?
I see my work as raising awareness of the social relevance of craftsmanship. One aspect of this is the preservation of historical monuments. The further development of the special shows for the IHM is important to me, as is the cooperation with the Akademie für Gestaltung und Design to strengthen craftspeople's design skills. Galerie Handwerk hosts seven exhibitions a year, which act as an inspiring showcase reflecting the capabilities of craft businesses and artists working in the craft sector.

Exhibition view of "Stones the Final Cut" at Galerie Handwerk in Munich, Photo by: Galerie Handwerk.

What makes Galerie Handwerk so special?
A new scene is presented here every few weeks. This inspiring change of focus per exhibition will be maintained under my management. I would like to further increase the high level of connoisseurship of the private public and the professional scene with the exhibitions.

Where would you like to set new accents?
Of course I would like to maintain continuity. My aim is to attract more young people to the gallery. We have an international network that is around 60 years old, with institutions, individuals and artists at various levels. This network must continue to be cultivated and carried into the future - it must be even more closely knit and supplemented by new protagonists.

Exhibition view of "21 Grams" at Galerie Handwerk in Munich, Photo by: Galerie Handwerk.

The gallery should convey and preserve craft culture. How can the gallery continue to fulfill this purpose?
Accessibility on the Internet must be further improved. This means, for example, that the content of the various exhibitions and the concept developed for them will also be accessible to the stakeholders in retrospect. Another keyword: research. The scientific sources from the perspective of the craftsmen and the chambers of crafts are still thin on the ground. There is therefore a need for more academic contributions to a theory of design craftsmanship, comparable to design theory. The curatorial work, the diverse levels of content and the multi-layered findings on the subject disappear after the exhibition has been dismantled. This means that anyone who has not seen the exhibition has not perceived this diversity and can no longer understand the connections and insights. I also want visitors to stay longer in our Handwerk gallery. Among other things, I'd like to see more interactive elements. Visitors should experience how things are created. In this way, Galerie Handwerk should become an experience for all the senses.

Barbara Schmidt has been managing Galerie Handwerk since November 2023

About the Interviewee

Barbara Schmidt. For more than 25 years jewellery has been my passion. I am happy to share the results of my research and enthusiasm with you in my books and work. For almost 20 years I was heading the Akademie für Gestaltung und Design. Since 2023 I have been heading the cultural department of  Handwerkskammer für München und Oberbayern. While teaching international students i.e. Hochschule Idar-Oberstein or as a jury member it is most inspiring to get new insights in the exchange with experts and professionals. My education started as an apprentice in Munich in high jewellery. To work with Günter Krauss in Stuttgart, Max Wilpert in Freiburg and Prof. Friedrich Becker in Düsseldorf was very inspiring. My studies at the Zeichenakademie in Hanau and the postgraduate Master of Arts in Design Management at Birmingham City University gave me a solid background to start my design consultancy.

Work in Public Collections:
Goldschmiedehaus, Hanau, Grassimuseum, Leipzig, Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt, Badisches Landesmuseum, Karlsruhe, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, Muzeum Českého ráje, Turnově