Swiss Review 4/2022

19 Images The children shining new light on a well-known artist The Zentrum Paul Klee in Berne is hosting the first-ever Klee exhibition to be curated by children. It is a pioneering project that provides a fresh insight into the famous artist’s work. EVA HIRSCHI “I had already heard of Paul Klee,” says Angelina proudly. “My grandmother showed me some of his pictures. She paints pictures too – like an artist, but not a real artist.” Angelina, nine years old, is part of a project at the Zentrum Paul Klee in Berne, in which children were allowed to create their own exhibition about the famous Bernese artist. Around a dozen children aged eight to 12 met for workshops at the venue every Wednesday afternoon for seven months. Examining colours, shapes and poetic themes, they curated the artistic content and architecture of the exhibition – and composed their own written works. The children – or rather their parents – had got in touch with the museum after seeing an advert. “It was the most fascinating experience,” says museum curator Martin Waldmeier, who normally works on his own but had to collaborate from the outset this time. Waldmeier deliberately stayed in the background and let the children do their own thing. “We only had to intervene once or twice. They wanted a three-metre platform from which to view the exhibition, complete with drinks machine and gaming lounge. We said no,” he laughs. But when the children said they wanted a quiet place to meet and chill out, Waldmeister and his colleagues said yes. There is now a slightly elevated spot with multicoloured seating cubes in the middle of the hall, giving a good overview of the exhibition. Coloured partitions divide the exhibition into thematic areas. Poems that the children made themselves by sticking the titles of Klee’s paintings together replace the commentaries that you would usually see. Mysterious centrepiece The exhibition, called “A Shining Secret”, begins with its own centrepiece painting. “I was very surprised that the children chose this particular picture,” says Waldmeier. “Paul Klee often painted birds and matchstick figures. I would have expected them to have selected one of his more playful depictions.” Instead, they picked “Glass Facade” from 1940 – one of the last paintings that Klee produced before his death. The work has a secret picture on the back. “Materials were scarce during the Second World War, so Klee often used both sides of the canvas,” explains Katja Lang of the Creaviva Children’s Museum, which belongs to the Zentrum Paul Klee. “But Klee never finished the reverse side on this particular occasion. In the end, he painted over it in pink.” The pink has peeled off over time to reveal the original picture, she adds. It shows a matchstick figure lying horizontally, with the following words written on the frame: “Mädchen stirbt und wird” (Girl dies and becomes). Lang: “We started investigating to see what the picture meant.” Only now has the Learning about art in the cellar of the Zentrum Paul Klee – children at the curating workshop select their favourite Klee from storage. Photo: Martin Waldmeier Swiss Review / August 2022 / No.4