Art for the people: ten years of SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen

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In 2010, Senator h. c. Peter Schaufler and Christiane Schaufler-Münch made their private collection of contemporary art accessible to the general public, for which they founded their own museum, SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen. A look back at ten successful years

When SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen opened its doors on 11 June 2010, a long-time dream came true for Senator h. c. Peter Schaufler and his wife Christiane Schaufler-Münch, passionate patrons who have developed one of the most impressive private art collections in southern Germany over a period of several decades. Pieces from the ZERO movement formed the foundation for their collection, which now comprises more than 3,500 contemporary works of art and is only growing. The earliest pieces were completed in the 1950s, and the most recent in 2020.

SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen and the Schaufler collection are closely linked to the specialist for refrigeration and air conditioning technology BITZER. On the initiative of Peter Schaufler, exhibits from the collection still inspire the company’s employees at their locations around the globe. With his enthusiasm for art, Peter Schaufler also pursued a social intention. He wanted to make the strength he gained from his involvement with art accessible to employees and the public: “The art I live with gives me peace and mental concentration. An absolutely positive energy emanates from many works”.

To ensure the future of the SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen as well as BITZER’s future, Peter Schaufler founded THE SCHAUFLER FOUNDATION in 2005. The foundation is the sponsor of the museum and preserves and maintains the Schaufler collection. THE SCHAUFLER FOUNDATION also ensures that BITZER as a company will remain independent and autonomous in the future. In this way it brings entrepreneurship and art together. By promoting science and research, the foundation integrates Peter Schaufler’s third major goal. In addition to awarding various scholarships, it also organises the Art of Compression usually every two years in cooperation with the Technical University of Dresden and the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences – Technology and Economics. The colloquium provides an ideal platform for experts from the refrigeration and air conditioning industry to get informed and to discuss the issues currently determining their field.

Peter Schaufler and Christinae Schaufler open the SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen
Peter Schaufler and Christiane Schaufler-Münch giving a speech during the inauguration ceremony for SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen in 2010
Barbara Bergman gives a speech at SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen
The Director of SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen, Barbara Bergmann, at the inauguration ceremony for the museum in 2010

SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen – art for the general public

The Schauflers never intended to create a collection for private enjoyment alone, nor did they view the purchase of works of art as a lucrative investment. ‘I only ever collected things that I liked. The name, the origin and the price were all unimportant,’ emphasises Peter Schaufler. When asked about the potential increase in value of his collection, he answered: ‘Because I don’t sell my art, it doesn’t really matter to me. Once I’ve purchased something, I forget the price.’

Art has always been something personal and emotional for the Schauflers, which is why the works of art should be accessible to the general public. This dream came true for the two of them when they established SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen. For ten years now, the museum has exhibited its unique collection for the general public – in alternating exhibitions arranged according to themes.

‘You don’t just suddenly decide to set up your own museum. It takes time and a great deal of thought,’ said Peter Schaufler during the inauguration ceremony for SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen on 11 June 2010. ‘Most important was our desire to see as many of the pieces as possible again, try out exciting dialogues between them and share them with an interested general public.’

The fact that the museum was not named after the patrons is a testament to their characters as reserved, modest people. The art and nothing else takes centre stage at SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen. ‘If I were to describe Peter Schaufler, I would say he was more of a quiet, reflective and sensitive person who didn’t make too much fuss about his successes,’ says Barbara Bergmann, Director of SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen. Peter Schaufler hired the art historian two years before the opening to make his pet project a reality.

Peter Schaufler, Christina Schaufler-Münch and Barbarrage at the opening ceremony of VENUSFALLE
(Left to right) Christiane Schaufler-Münch, Peter Schaufler and Barbara Bergmann at the opening ceremony for the “VENUSFALLE” exhibition in 2015

How it all began: SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen takes shape

The museum was built between 2008 and 2009 where once BITZER produced its refrigeration compressors. The museum building comprises three elements: parts of the former production facility, the new building and the former high-bay warehouse. At multiple locations, the five mezzanine floors of the newly built section offer sight lines of other floors and the works of art exhibited there.

With its ceiling more than 15 metres high, the former high-bay warehouse is impressive due to its sheer size and features a wraparound staircase. The puristic look and feel of the museum interior offers the perfect environment for visitors to experience the pictures, sculptures and photographs.

Old Building SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen outsideModern Building SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen outside

Art in the former BITZER production facility

If you look a little bit closer, you’ll see that the museum building is the former industrial facility, highlighting the close relationship between SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen and BITZER. The team of the BFK architecture firm based in Stuttgart was able to maintain the striking steel frame, including the roof structure with the characteristic sawtooth roofs of the former production facility, which the architects harmoniously integrated into the museum building, thus creating unique lighting in the interior.

Peter Schaufler had been looking for this type of connection between art and entrepreneurship: ‘SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen is not only a place for art, but is also closely linked to the history of the BITZER company. I’m therefore all the more delighted that former production spaces have been transformed into a museum for our collection.’

Collector and entrepreneur since 1979

Peter Schaufler took over BITZER, the specialist for refrigeration and air conditioning technology, from his father in 1979 and, in 36 years as CEO and owner, expanded the company into a global player in the industry with a consistent internationalisation strategy.

1979 was also the year the Schauflers began collecting art. They were both fascinated by the peace and clarity of the “Schnurcollage” work all in white by artist Fritz Ruoff from Nürtingen. The purchase of this piece marked the start of the Schaufler collection.

Peter Schaufler and Christina Schaufler
Entrepreneurs with a passion for art: Peter Schaufler and Christiane Schaufler-Münch

SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen: 25 exhibitions

Over the past ten years, the museum has organised 25 high-profile exhibitions under the leadership of Barbara Bergmann. Pieces taken from the Schaufler collection have formed the foundation for just about every show, with loans from other museums completing the exhibitions and inspiring specialists, artists and the general public alike. The exhibitions draw around 14,000 visitors each year to SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen, with its exhibition space of 6,000 square metres.

Barbara Bergmann and her staff, which now comprises nine employees, are responsible for planning the exhibitions. The qualified art historian and her team can look back on quite a few impressive successes: SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen received the Lotto-Museumspreis Baden-Württemberg award in 2017. During his speech, Jan Merk, President of Museumsverband Baden-Württemberg and member of the jury, said: ‘Time and time again, the SCHAUWERK team manages to initiate a lively discussion with pieces from the existing collection.’ The jury also praised the integrative art exposure concept, which comprises special tours for children, pupils, seniors and people with physical and mental disabilities.

An institution in the art scene

Since 2010, SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen has developed an exceptional reputation and a reliable network inside the art scene. As a result, the museum team can also incorporate loans from other galleries and private collections into the exhibitions centred around pieces from the Schaufler collection. ‘This is how we round off our exhibitions and offer our visitors insight into the many themes of contemporary art,’ says Barbara Bergmann.

‘The extensive selection of sculptures by British artist Antony Gormley, for instance, reveals the outstanding quality of the Schaufler collection as a whole. His work has been included in the A Level Art exam in the German state of Baden-Württemberg since 2014. Of course, we immediately saw this as an opportunity to develop special tours and workshops for school classes.’

BITZER production facility in the 1980s
Where reciprocating compressors were assembled in the 1980s, ...
People enter the SCHAUWERK SIndelfingen
… is now an art centre

Retrospective of ten years of SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen

In the foreword of the PINC KOMMT! exhibition catalogue, Christiane Schaufler-Münch takes a walk down memory lane: ‘When SCHAUWERK [Sindelfingen] opened its doors (…) my husband said in an interview: “Red is a very important colour – it signifies that something is happening.” And that fit in with his philosophy in life.’

Ehxhibition LOVE STORIES at museum SCHAUWERK SIndelfingen
Special exhibition LOVE STORIES from 5 September 2020 to 24 April 2022

In the LOVE STORIES special exhibition (05/09/2020–24/04/2022), SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen reflects on the past decade. And, of course, the colour red plays a special role in LOVE STORIES, in which the museum showcases 30 pieces from ten past exhibitions. The works of 23 artists can be found here in a new context and include pieces by Helen Frankenthaler, Jonathan Meese, Not Vital, Sue Williams, Sylvie Fleury and, of course, Lucio Fontana.

The origin of his passion for art: Lucio Fontana

Peter Schaufler had always been fascinated by the works of Lucio Fontana (1899–1968). With his famous hole and slash paintings, the Italian avant-garde artist inspired the Schauflers’ passion for collecting art over the long term.

During the inauguration ceremony for SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen, Peter Schaufler said: ‘Lucio Fontana was probably the one who inspired my passion the most. I was so impressed by the conviction with which he focused everything in the radical gesture of the slash. These works of art are unbelievably sensual and occasionally verge on the erotic, reduced to a composition that is absolutely perfect. A slash and that’s it.’

Not Vital – important works in the Schaufler collection

Peter Schaufler and Christiane Schaufler-Münch have always found inner peace and strength for their tasks in their favourite pieces. Their joint foreword in the Not Vital exhibition catalogue from 2012 reveals just how enthusiastic they were about art.

‘Not Vital is deeply rooted in his hometown, Sent, where he achieved extraordinary things for culture in the region. His park, Not dal Mot, is a unique synthesis of the arts, in which he and his brother integrated buildings and sculptures into the landscape. Seeing it for ourselves and experiencing it in a wholly unique atmosphere at celebrations always brought us such joy. But Sent wasn’t the only place we met. Due to his nomadic life and our own fondness of travel, our paths often crossed around the world, usually far from Europe. We’ve been fascinated with Not Vital’s work since we saw it for the first time. We’re captivated by the unfamiliar and sometimes fantastical character of his works, particularly because it’s ambiguous and open. It suddenly becomes clear when you visit Not Vital’s home and place of work, when you converse, eat and drink with him – share aspects of your life.’

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