an interview feature on gallery owners Mr. Klaus Werner Hartung and his wife Mrs. Jane Rodriguez Hartung
How long have you been residing in Darmstadt, Germany?
We transferred to Darmstadt – that is actually the city were Klaus was born – when our youngest daughter was 2 years old to have more space for both children to have their own rooms. That was around 8-9 years ago.
We understand it was originally planned to be a private residence. When did you decide to have an art gallery within the premises?
We purchased the house after it was damaged by fire. We renovated it and extended the house as well as constructed the showroom. We transferred the Transwing office to our residence from another location and at the same time started the sale of ceramic and porcelain dinnerware, as we do in the Philippines through our subsidiary Royal Accent Group, Inc., where we are the exclusive distributor for German brands WMF AG, as well as Seltmann Weiden porcelain.
Around 5 years ago, we were approached by Kunst Gallery Philippines which is based in Batangas to assist them in promoting art in Germany. We decided to open the Transwing Art Gallery (www.kunst-gallery.eu) in our premises. Since we have extended our business in freight forwarding and at the same time moved the porcelain and ceramic business nearly entirely to the Philippines, we were able to accommodate space of around 100 square meters for the gallery.
What factors did you consider in the design of your home and gallery? Who was the interior designer? How did you choose the furniture and fixtures?
Jane is an interior designer from Metro Manila, therefore there was no need to hire somebody else. The furniture and accessories were collected during our many travels abroad. The paintings in our residence are mainly from Paco Gorospe, a Filipino artist from Mabini. Some are newly purchased during exhibitions in Berlin, Germany.
Any stories behind particular accent pieces/paintings you consider as your favorite pieces?
We have been collecting paintings for the past fifteen years exclusively made by Filipino artists, mostly from Mabini.
There is one set of art works that we took over from the VOELKERKUNDEMUSEUM. This is a museum in Heidelberg, the place where Dr. Jose Rizal studied during his stay in Germany. These paintings on Rizal by the Filipino artist Robert Lavidez were stored in the cellar at the museum and the new director just wanted to dispose of them. So we took them over to our gallery to keep until the artist, who is now living in Canada, can decide what to do with his paintings.
Other paintings on Dr. Jose Rizal, especially the one from Rene Robles, are great. We have some artworks of some of the National Artists of the Philippines, like Fernando Amorsolo, Ang Kiukok, and H.R. Occampo, which are in our possession and each acquisition and each artwork has its own story.
We are very proud of a cubism painting by Paco Gorospe, the one we are going to place on the book cover. The book is about art development in the Philippines, with a focus on the crucial role of Mabini Art. This painting unfortunately is not for sale. It reflects for us Filipino art, native injection, cubism in work and Western Art influences from a Mabini artist, produced at a time when Mabini was the nucleus of contemporary art in the Philippines.
What are your fondest memories of your home?
Purchasing a house that was heavily damaged and reconstructing/renovating it with your own bare hands, and transforming it into not only a residence but a business place, and later a gallery.
We also have a home in Cavite, Philippines. We are so happy to have two homes …. This is filled with furniture from Germany and paintings from the Philippines.
Any future plans for the gallery?
We want to share our extensive collection of books on Rizal, art and the history of the Philippines to the German and European communities, as well as to the Filipino community in Europe.
We did have at the start of 2013 an exhibit of three artists (a group exhibit) at the German Club in Makati, simultaneous with an exhibition about Mabini Art in our gallery in Darmstadt. In February we have ongoing venues with the Philippine Art Education Association (PAEA) in the Philippines in at least three academes in commemoration of their 45th anniversary, after having had two locations in 2012. We sponsored an art competition organized by the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) on April 13 at the Rizal Park.
For Rizal’s birthday in June 19, we are supporting the Philippine group Kontra Gapi during their European tour, in coordination with the Embassy and the groups in Berlin for an exhibition in Berlin. There was a wreath laying ceremony with the Mayor of Wilhelmsfeld and the Knights of Rizal in Wilhelmsfeld near Heidelberg at the statue of Rizal, where he stayed during the time he wrote the Noli Me Tangere.
In autumn, we went to participate in the Manila Art Fair, and held another exhibition in our Gallery.
We launched our book on Mabini Art in May 2013. After having reprinted the Noli Me Tangere in the German language several years ago after it was out of stock in the bookstores in Germany, the Mabini Art book would be our second major book project.
We have been regularly exhibiting at the German Club Manila in Makati, and at ManilArt every October, as well as continuous travelling exhibits and lectures on Mabini Art Movement in the various universities and colleges in Metro Manila. Last 2014 we did a partnership with GSIS Museum of Art for a solo exhibit on Mabini artist Paco Gorospe.
Any assistance we can extend to the Filipino and German community will be a very big achievement for us.
The Sunday Times Magazine cover story
November 16, 2014
Raising image of ‘cheap’ Mabini art in Europe
by Gian B. Franco Student Journalist, The Manila Times College