Curating in Elevators, Embracing Spontaneity and Seeing Working Relationship Becoming Friendships

Sven Christian Schuch in front of Bieberhaus, location of Mind the Gap exhibition series
In front of Bieberhaus, MIND the GAP exhibition series. 2021

Dance and football. Coming from a working-class background and being the first of my family to attend university, I was living in a rural area of Germany and so my access to art was rather late in life. For whatever reason, I started to study theatre science at FU Berlin. I still remember my first performances of contemporary dance at HAU Berlin (the former Hebbel am Ufer) as part of a festival of Scandinavian contemporary dance. I had never seen anything similar and it changed my life completely. Although I did not understand anything, my curiosity was awakened. At some other level of consciousness it spoke profoundly to me, and in the coming years I focused on contemporary dance, watching anything I could and I started dancing myself, something my teenage me, being a promising football player, would not have thought possible …

Big picture, details and sharing your art with the world. Curating for me is a mixture of craziness, with a profound knowledge, commitment, and belief in the social sphere. It creates a space for something, which extends the physical space by far, opening room for imagination. Next to sharing this freedom of mind with an audience, it allows me to challenge myself all over again—a quality of this profession that never gets old. Being in the art world for me is a means of meeting interesting people from all over the world, never getting stuck in the small picture, though always aware that details make the difference. In my position at Muthesius Art Academy, I now try to create this space for young artists, showing them that it is one thing to produce art, it is another step to share it with the world. The moment of exhibiting, making your art public, is a magical one. These moments of getting together are so important. 

Sven Christian Schuch with artist Cordula Ditz, preparing her exhibition at Bieberhaus, Hamburg
With artist Cordula Ditz, preparing her exhibition at Bieberhaus, Hamburg. 2021

From a young age, sport was very important for me. It helps me think, to rewind, to ground myself and now as an adult it keeps me connected to people outside of my daily art life routine. I find these social places, these interactions so crucial.

The Beauty of Surprises. As a cultural manager I am rather organised, as I am trying to build frames in which art can happen. However, in all my time working in the arts, I feel you simply need this quality of spontaneity, as things change constantly. And that is a good quality. Through your encounters and curatorial research, you get surprised as things turn out to be different than you initially thought. That always was the beauty for me, and why I love my job.

My secret weapon or on-going habit is to try and keep an open mind and treat myself and others with kindness. Oh and I try to keep my desk as organised as possible.

If I had to give an advice to someone starting their own project in the art world it would be to just follow your passion, and trust that this exactly is your key weapon! Taking a risk pays out most of the times. Take my project MIND the GAP, at the Bieberhaus, a particularly rich, historical, and over 100 years old house in Hamburg. It’s an exhibition series that happens in an old decommissioned paternoster lift, where I asked five artists to work with the wooden cabins of the elevetor. If when I started, anyone had told me the stress it would cause me in terms of German laws regarding fire protection, escape routes and so on, it would never have happened. But it turned out to be a beautiful project, and the installation made by Cordula Ditz was acquired by Hamburger Kunsthalle, and is now exhibited in the permanent collection of the museum. 

Sven Christian Schuch in installation by Christl Mudrak and Katja Pudor, Berlin
In installation by Christl Mudrak and Katja Pudor, Berlin. 2014

The best way to know someone is to share a common interest, and it naturally comes by working with each other with an open mind and an open heart. The good thing in the art world is that being human and being open to show emotions is a big quality, and luckily, often considered as such. What often happens to me is that I create a stronger bond than what would be considered normal in other professional branches. Sometimes it develops in a friendship, which lasts long after the actual collaboration, or it shifts categories into something between professional relationship and friendship, and at one point you cannot distinguish them from one another. An artist I share this bond with is Christl Mudrak, we know each other for almost two decades now. Right now we are working on a very precious project called Musée de la Fraise, which will take place in the public space all over Berlin during Berlin Art Week in September, 2022.

Naturally I do cook, but never with a recipe. Sometimes I get ideas from cooking with friends, or from a restaurant, and while cooking myself, my natural instincts kick in. I hardly produce anything uneatable though.

I would not say it’s my favourite, but my most often used piece of tech would be my smartphone. I can’t hardly imagine my life without it anymore. I leave the question of whether this is sad or not, open. 

Sven Christian Schuch selfie at Margulies Collection, Miami
Selfie at Margulies Collection, Miami. 2018

As a future invention—I could suggest teleporting, like in the series Star Trek, “Beam me up, Scotty”. How cool would that be?! Though my mind always starts to buzz only thinking about it, which also happens when I try to imagine eternity, I can simply not get my head around it. 

When I travel I always take with me my sleeping mask, and most of the time my computer, although I try not to!

To keep sane I need my time off. And I need time alone in which I am not productive, as in not working. I spoke with a dear friend and colleague about it some time ago, and we were both happy to say that visiting an art exhibition can still create that feeling of relaxation and joy. I also love getting on my bike and just ride it into the sunset along the Elbe river, enjoying its wide views. That always does the trick.

Who, dead or alive, would I like to have lunch with, and where? This question I find very difficult and it stresses me out. If I really need to point somebody out, it would be Queen Elisabeth of England. I must admit I am fascinated by what she has experienced in her seven decades of reign, never actually having chosen that role.

Retour à Reims by Didier Eribon is a book that made a mark on me, as I felt so connected to his honest and brave autobiographical journey back to his working-class roots, reflecting on how he managed to emancipate as a gay man, but denying his social background, and his struggles and moments of alienation in the academic field. It felt so close to my journey, and let’s be honest, the art world consists of a highly exclusive bunch of people with a very particular language, and by language, I mean social language, on how to behave, what to expect from life and on relying on social and economic resources given by birth. Right now I am reading Never eat alone by Keith Ferrazzi, but I can’t tell much about it. I like the idea though, it is very positive despite the fact that it is a book about self-improvement, which I always find weird as a concept since life should not be about success all the time.

If I wasn’t curating I guess being a carpenter would have been something interesting to me. Dancing would have been the dream, but as a career I was simply not talented enough physically and way too old when I started.

Sven Christian Schuch

Independent curator

Hamburg, Germany


Sven Christian Schuch is a freelance curator, art manager and founding director of sp ce at Muthesius Art Academy, Kiel. For the past 15 years he has worked in different formats in the field of contemporary art, dance and theory. From 2013 until May 2019 he worked as director for Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut / Hamburg.  In 2012 he was project assistant in the curatorial department of dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel. In 2011 he held a curatorial scholarship at PLATFORM3 – Spaces for Contemporary Art in München and curated the exhibition and research project Drawing a line | On With-Standing.
He was founder of FIELD Berlin – an interdisciplinary project space for contemporary art in 2007/2008 and of – a network for students to discover contemporary art. In between 2011 until 2017 he conceived and curated the residency and exhibition project springhouse in Dresden. In 2020/21 he created the exhibition series MIND the GAP in an old paternoster elevator in Hamburg. Until July 2021 he was Managing Director of Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin. Since November 2021 he is founding director of sp ce Muthesius Art Academy, Kiel (opening on July 13, 2022, website coming soon He lives and works in Hamburg, Germany.

Art critic and writer.

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