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Pia Stadtbäumer

Pia Stadtbäumer, Professor of Sculpture

As a student in the 1980s, Pia Stadtbäumer decided that her artwork should connect with something that is available to everyone - the human body - rather than with abstract shapes, objects or ideas. In a clear contrast with the foregoing neo-avant-gardes, postmodernism recognised the value of figurative sculpture. One only has to think of somewhat older artists such as Stefan Balkenhol, Katharina Fritsch, Juan Muñoz, Charles Ray and Thomas Schütte. This artist, however, is not interested in simply reconnecting with the classical / naturalistic tradition. Nor is she concerned with the neo-expressionist model so popular during her epoch. Her first figures, which are somewhat less than life-size, are calm and are entirely realistically shaped in terms of their physical properties. This impression, however, is disrupted - sometimes by the use of unfamiliar materials, but most especially by the way her figures are positioned in space. A female figure ‘lies’ headlong beneath - rather than upon - a console. Upright figures ‘stand’ on their heads in the corner. Sleeping children ‘rest’ on the ceiling of the space. Although these bodies appear familiar, they exist in a curiously indeterminate state between empathy and autonomy. Stadtbäumer combines pre-modern methods with modernistic methods.

Soon, however, the element of disruption is taken a step further - the physical qualities of the sculptures themselves are disrupted. She shows us fragments in the form of oversized, hanging arms, and fragile figures standing within the space are revealed in unspectacular fashion as hermaphrodites. Portrait-like heads are given ‘injuries’ that appear mechanical. In the 1990s, the artist’s interests expanded to include the symbolic, the fantastical and the baroque. All of this, however, is only a commonplace way of describing a far more complex artistic attitude. The addition of curious objects to child figures causes them to mutate into strange figures with little in common with a peaceful childhood world: it produces mysterious and threatening images of a lack of restraint, and of the concealed autonomy of these figures as people. The young ‘cowboy’ at the edge of the city, sitting on a horse loaded down with shopping bags, looks like an absurd monument to the actuality of a young person’s existence in a consumer society, riding through the brave new world. Later in her career, the figures and types from the present day are joined by a historical escapism, with chivalrous scenes and with a rococo-like love of sensual detail – this is due not so much to the borrowing of a style as to the attempt to pursue the attitude of self-love so typical of the age.

In Pia Stadtbäumer’s artworks, the human body and traditional sculpture techniques are coupled with a relish for invention, with a disregard for taboos. They come together to provide a complex set of instruments for addressing the human condition in our age. In the 1990s, an exhibition rather prematurely declared the dawn of the “Post Human” age. The artworks of Pia Stadtbäumer show that far more complex and less unambiguous images of the human being are possible – and yet these images still have a link with the body as a concrete thing.

Julian Heynen

(from: Die Bildhauer. Kunstakademie Düsseldorf 1945 bis heute. Exhibition catalogue Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf 2013, p. 262)

23 Fragen des Institutional Questionaire, grafisch umgesetzt von Ran Altamirano auf den Türgläsern der HFBK Hamburg zur Jahresausstellung 2021; photo: Charlotte Spiegelfeld


Who speaks? Who paints which motif? Who is shown, who is not? Questions of identity politics play an important role in art and thus also at the HFBK Hamburg. In the current issue, the university's own Lerchenfeld magazine highlights university structures as well as student initiatives that deal with diversity and identity.

Grafik: Tim Ballaschke

Start of semester

After three semesters of hybrid teaching under pandemic conditions, we are finally about to start another semester of presence. We welcome all new students and teachers at the HFBK Hamburg and cordially invite you to the opening of the academic year 2020/21, which this year will be accompanied by a guest lecture by ruangrupa.

Graphic design: Sam Kim, picture in the background: Sofia Mascate, photo: Marie-Theres Böhmker

Graduate Show 2021: All Good Things Come to an End

From September 24 to 26, the more than 150 Bachelor's and Master's graduates of the class of 2020/21 will present their final projects as part of the Graduate Show at the HFBK Hamburg. We would like to thank all visitors and participants.

photo: Klaus Frahm

Summer Break

The HFBK Hamburg is in the lecture-free period, many students and teachers are on summer vacation, art institutions have summer break. This is a good opportunity to read and see a variety of things:

ASA Open Studio 2019, Karolinenstraße 2a, Haus 5; photo: Matthew Muir

Live und in Farbe: die ASA Open Studios im Juni 2021

Since 2010, the HFBK has organised the international exchange programme Art School Alliance. It enables HFBK students to spend a semester abroad at renowned partner universities and, vice versa, invites international art students to the HFBK. At the end of their stay in Hamburg, the students exhibit their work in the Open Studios in Karolinenstraße, which are now open again to the art-interested public.

Studiengruppe Prof. Dr. Anja Steidinger, Was animiert uns?, 2021, Mediathek der HFBK Hamburg, Filmstill

Unlearning: Wartenau Assemblies

The art education professors Nora Sternfeld and Anja Steidinger initiated the format "Wartenau Assemblies". It oscillates between art, education, research and activism. Complementing this open space for action, there is now a dedicated website that accompanies the discourses, conversations and events.

Ausstellungsansicht "Schule der Folgenlosigkeit. Übungen für ein anderes Leben" im Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg; photo: Maximilian Schwarzmann

School of No Consequences

Everyone is talking about consequences: The consequences of climate change, the Corona pandemic or digitalization. Friedrich von Borries (professor of design theory), on the other hand, is dedicated to consequence-free design. In “School of No Consequences. Exercises for a New Life” at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, he links collection objects with a "self-learning room" set up especially for the exhibition in such a way that a new perspective on "sustainability" emerges and supposedly universally valid ideas of a "proper life" are questioned.

Annual Exhibition 2021 at the HFBK

Annual exhibition a bit different: From February 12- 14, 2021 students at the Hamburg University of Fine Arts, together with their professors, had developed a variety of presentations on different communication channels. The formats ranged from streamed live performances to video programs, radio broadcasts, a telephone hotline, online conferences, and a web store for editions. In addition, isolated interventions could be discovered in the outdoor space of the HFBK and in the city.

Public Information Day 2021

How do I become an art student? How does the application process work? Can I also study to become a teacher at the HFBK? These and other questions about studying art were answered by professors, students and staff at the HFBK during the Public Information Day on February 13, 2021. In addition, there will be an appointment specifically for English-speaking prospective students on February 23 at 2 pm.

Katja Pilipenko

Semestereröffnung und Hiscox-Preisverleihung 2020

On the evening of November 4, the HFBK celebrated the opening of the academic year 2020/21 as well as the awarding of the Hiscox Art Prize in a livestream - offline with enough distance and yet together online.

Exhibition Transparencies with works by Elena Crijnen, Annika Faescke, Svenja Frank, Francis Kussatz, Anne Meerpohl, Elisa Nessler, Julia Nordholz, Florentine Pahl, Cristina Rüesch, Janka Schubert, Wiebke Schwarzhans, Rosa Thiemer, Lea van Hall. Organized by Prof. Verena Issel and Fabian Hesse; photo: Screenshot

Teaching Art Online at the HFBK

How the university brings together its artistic interdisciplinary study structure with digital formats and their possibilities.

Alltagsrealität oder Klischee?; photo: Tim Albrecht

HFBK Graduate Survey

Studying art - and what comes next? The clichéd images stand their ground: Those who have studied art either become taxi drivers, work in a bar or marry rich. But only very few people could really live from art – especially in times of global crises. The HFBK Hamburg wanted to know more about this and commissioned the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Hamburg to conduct a broad-based survey of its graduates from the last 15 years.

Ausstellung Social Design, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Teilansicht; photo: MKG Hamburg

How political is Social Design?

Social Design, as its own claim is often formulated, wants to address social grievances and ideally change them. Therefore, it sees itself as critical of society – and at the same time optimizes the existing. So what is the political dimension of Social Design – is it a motor for change or does it contribute to stabilizing and normalizing existing injustices?