The Right Time

Column Edwin Jacobs


In May this year, I received a phone call from Dortmund. Did I know the Dortmunder U? They were looking for a new director. I travelled to Dortmund and instantly fell in love. Especially with the dynamics surrounding the museum. The many young people that were around, working, hanging out or deep in conversation, gave the place a unique energy. 

       Unsurprising, really, since the Dortmunder U accommodates the campus of the Technical University and the Academy of Arts. The latter is involved in an exchange programme that involves various academies in North Rhine-Westphalia and specializes in new visual media and technology. The building’s environment offers young people plenty to do and this also has a positive impact on the users of the Dortmunder U, including Museum Ostwall and the Hartware MedienKunstVerein. 

       The U-Turm, as the building is called locally, is housed in the former Union Brewery and was opened in 2010. At the time, the Ruhr Region was European Capital of Culture and it managed to attract attention with excellent programmes on art and heritage. Moreover, it laid the foundation for ongoing activities related to art, design, architecture and history. 

       The emphasis here is on new developments in visual arts, media and technology, but there are retrospectives as well, paying particular attention to the discoveries of pioneers and ground breakers. This blend of analogue and digital worlds leads to unusual exhibitions such as the recent ‘Factory of the Sun’ by Hito Steyerl in collaboration with MOCA Los Angeles. 

       I never stopped to think whether Germany would be an appealing place to work after the Centraal Museum in Utrecht. When I was asked, it felt quite natural to me. A lot has changed in the Centraal Museum since I started working there in 2009. The museum is now housed in a next to new building and the presentation of the collection has been completely revised. Exhibitions now relate to developments in art and to the history of the city. 

       By increasing internal and external collaboration, the Dortmunder U is meant to draw in more and more people. This is based on an exciting programme and experiment. In Germany, so I’m learning, art and culture are to a larger extent regarded from the perspective of Bildung, self-cultivation. Therefore experiments are necessary, because cultivation presupposes innovation. Inside, I feel that this is exactly the purpose of museums. Utrecht taught me to be receptive to this.

by Edwin Jacobs
Museum Director Dortmunder U, DE



This production was published in WOTH No2. This issue is still available in english via Bruil & van der StaaijOr get a subscription here!

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