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In conversation with Charles Schumann

Interview

Mr Schu­mann, you’ve given count­less inter­views in your life but you always claim that most of what has been writ­ten about you isn’t true. How should we inter­pret that?

I’ve never said that; I only said the­re were too many inter­views. At some point you’ve got to stop tel­ling sto­ries. Becau­se peop­le know ever­ything any­way and you don’t have that many new things to say.

Words such as life­style, luxu­ry, fashion, best­sel­ling aut­hor, supre­me bar
cul­tu­re and all tho­se crea­ti­ve fiel­ds whe­re art plays a role are asso­cia­ted with Charles Schumann.

A lot in art is just too much or sim­ply ‘fashion­ab­le’. In the kit­chen, many chefs claim they ser­ve art on their pla­tes. Often, less art would be bet­ter. Sim­pli­ci­ty can be achie­ved once you can’t strip anything else away. My access to art is some­what dif­fe­rent, I’ve always been inte­res­ted in pho­to­gra­phy and I’ve also owned a gal­le­ry for 2–3 years. I’m a friend of Mr Bas­elitz, but we never dis­cus­sed art: never.

You once said that you had no clue about num­bers, you were just lucky when it came to your busi­ness. What does ‘luck’ mean to you?

What does luck mean? Luck is, perhaps, not the right expres­si­on; it sim­ply worked out; it could have not worked out, that would have led to our swift end. Even my col­la­bo­ra­tors didn’t find the new Schu­mann bar any good and that’s just not a mat­ter of luck, but hard work, disci­pli­ne, and may­be even a bit of narrow-mindedness.

Did you choo­se the fur­nis­hing yourself at the bar on Ode­on Squa­re in Munich and, in doing so, did you trans­mit your open style and cha­rac­ter to the location?

Yes, I did, but I also col­la­bo­ra­ted with two archi­tects, one of them ope­ned the first Schu­mann bar, as well as the cafe.

A lot in Art is just too much. 

If you wan­ted to give this loca­ti­on a cer­tain ener­gy, which works of art would you choose…

There’s ple­nty of peop­le who would do such a thing, howe­ver han­ging up pain­tings doesn’t crea­te any ener­gy. The ener­gy of a place is crea­ted by the peop­le who work the­re, by what is ser­ved on a plate.

It’s no big secret that you’re not a fami­ly man and some­what of a lone wolf. Moreo­ver, you share this with ple­nty of artists, becau­se lone­li­ness is often the key to their suc­cess. How do you spend your time when you’re alone?

Not qui­te, becau­se I unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly spend way too much time in my acti­vi­ty. I actual­ly spend way too litt­le on my own. Too litt­le. I’m here alo­ne, yet not alo­ne. I’m not so curious any­mo­re to say things like ‘now I need to see that, that, and that.’ If it hap­pens, gre­at, if not I can sit some­whe­re else for hours without a worry in the world.

Is the bar your only pas­si­on? Has it always been that way or were the­re ever any alternatives?

No. I belie­ve, and this is whe­re I got lucky, I do and have always done that which makes me hap­py and is fun. I like com­ing here day in, day out, if I didn’t any­mo­re then it would be high time for me to move on.

As a host, one needs to have spe­cial obser­va­ti­on skills and extre­me empa­thy – do you suc­ceed in liter­al­ly see­ing what your guests wish for by just loo­king at them?

I know what peop­le want but then, it’s also about gui­ding peop­le a bit. It’s way too dif­fi­cult to do so in such a big restau­rant. To real­ly exer­cise influ­ence, you should be working in a tiny space.

Would you call yourself a visionary?

No, why would I be a visionary?

The who­le world loo­ks up to you!

Yes, but may­be that’s got more to do with the fact that I’m still working and I real­ly care­ful­ly plan how my days and hours look like.

But you also said that nobo­dy else could repli­ca­te what you do here?

Let’s not get car­ri­ed away now. We were lucky to get such a big venue. I hate all the pla­ces which look the same and whe­re a lot of money has visi­b­ly gone into them, but which have no soul. Such a loca­ti­on needs a soul. And it was very dif­fi­cult to infu­se it with a Schu­mann soul. Without me it pro­bab­ly wouldn’t have worked.

The the­me of this edi­ti­on is ‘OUTSTANDING’. We find you to be out­stan­ding. What do you have to say about that?

No, I don’t think so. One part of the suc­cess has to do with me, too, may­be more than I think, but out­stan­ding… may­be if three or four peop­le come tog­e­ther and say we won’t crea­te some­thing out­stan­ding, but we’ll make some­thing spe­cial out of the ordinary.

But you’ve made some­thing spe­cial out of your life, have you not?

Have I? Not real­ly, no. Do you know what the pro­blem is? We’re back again to being alo­ne. If you do some­thing like what I do here, you don’t real­ly have that much time to real­ly think about it. Take me, for examp­le: I don’t fear death. Not one bit. I hones­lty couldn’t care less. When I’m gone, I’m gone.

Let’s return to art: what do you think of our cover sto­ry about Anselm
Kiefer?

I don’t know him that well, I’d have lik­ed to know him bet­ter. The last time he was here, I got the impres­si­on that he too, just like me, some­ti­mes likes being alone.

More about Schu­mann: www.schumanns.de

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