What Does Success in the Arts Look Like - Interview II with Karen Klauke

Karen Klauke - Head of exhibition and event management at Braunschweig University of Art

What are your thoughts on fame in the arts?

It seems as if there are always the same names repeated in big shows–resounded throughout the land. I am suspicious to this, since in many cases ‘fame’ means rather ‘famous label’; a brand, a surface, a shiny wrapping. People often forget to take a look (or maybe a longer gaze). At its best success means generating a result everybody is proud to be part of and feels honored for his effort–at least this is my desire. Thus, in my view fame is: people talking positively and thankfully about your dedication, appreciating your commitment, recommending your cooperation, looking forward to repetition someday… even in lovely tiny productions.


What is your approach to rejection as a site of success?

Inevitable! But always a matter of interpretation and treatment…Identify it, analyze it, document it, learn from it in order to improve next time. Admit it and say Sorry, and forgive yourself for being neither perfect nor almighty.


Any thoughts on income and financial stability and success?

Many! I deeply disdain the existing imbalance between effort and financial output in the whole cultural scene. Art indeed is a socially appreciated good, supposed to be available for everybody, but nobody seriously wants to spend money on projects (aside from professional collecting). One is paid by gratuitous acknowledgement and the ‘cozy’ thought of transforming ‘hobby’ into (freelance)profession–be thankful for that chance (hear the sarcasm)! But I don’t remember ever paying my rent or refilling my fridge with idealism or passion, did I? And even worse: we steal each other dumping jobs, hoping to finally have a foot in the door, carelessly supporting the system. The urgent lesson society has to learn: quality always has its price! After some struggles I now have a safe job that I really do love, endowed with an adequate salary and an unlimited contract. This might be a true success regarding the current conditions in the art scene, but after all I  passed two university degrees and this should be more natural. Even though, I’m totally thankful for my current situation every day!


How do you define success in the arts?

  • Waking up in the morning looking forward to the daily schedule
  • The honest applause after an opening speech
  • The honest handshake / hug by an artist after a nice glass of wine together
  • Finding new ways to explain the world
  • Finding new ways to perceive the world
  • Generating new connections and interfaces
  • Touching and surprising people
  • Feeling pride and satisfaction reviewing former projects
  • Leaving traces


Do you have role models for success and who are they?

My personal role models for success: smart decisions, genius ideas, clever solutions, sovereignty and a clear mind in tricky situations, looking for consulting when you absolutely have no clue, empathy and diplomacy even when your counterpart is a jerk... 


Which advice on success would you give your 18-year-old self?

Think positive, be positive, do good things, love what you do, be focused, be self-critical, be authentic, be self-ironical, be ambitious, be patient, stay open-minded, and ALWAYS MIND KARMA!!


Your thoughts on success in the arts and race/ gender

Sometimes advantage, sometimes obstacle, often arbitrary, mostly ridiculous…

I would love to hear your thoughts on what success in the arts looks like for you. Comment below or share via social media  with #ArtAsLabor