It has been a gift

‘der Achte’ spoke with Sabine Haag, KHM general director and long-time Josefstadt resident, about her love of the 8th district, life during the pandemic and her career.

I came to Vienna as a student in 1983. I instantly fell in love with this district and have been living here permanently since 2003. It is nice and small, with a relaxed atmosphere, and has everything you need: a diverse range of shops and restaurants, an excellent infrastructure and great transport connections that gave me maximum mobility when my three boys were little and allowed them to move about on their own as they got older.

To be honest, the lockdown time has been a gift for me. I have never seen so much of my husband. There were no evening events and we had more time for each other. We now take a long walk every day and plan to keep that habit even after the crisis. On our evening walks we came across the light installations of Victoria Coeln at Altlerchenfeld church and in Tigerpark. Such initiatives are great: they improve the quality of life and offer a brief respite from the Covid routine. Art is so important and can put a smile on your face, especially in times like these. The increasing passivity is paralyzing us. Art tells us about the human condition and shows us that the problems we are confronted with today – natural disasters, pandemics, climate change – have always been around.

I didn’t plan my career. My boys were still in primary school when I was appointed to this position. But it was no coincidence that it was a woman, then minister of culture Claudia Schmied, who promoted me. My husband also encouraged me to seize this opportunity. Being seen as a role model made me realize how important it is to encourage women to be confident and take chances. My advice for young women would be to finish their education or training so that they can lead an independent life.

I also try to provide a better work-life balance within our museum group. Of course, that also applies to men, which is why we have introduced a ‘daddy month’. We have equal pay and the ratio of women to men in leading positions varies: Sometimes there are more women, sometimes there are more men – ultimately, it is the qualification that counts. I prefer working in mixed teams.

As a consequence of Covid, we have expanded our digital services, launched new, interactive formats and increased our social media presence. We want to focus on young people and always try to come up with new ideas such as the successful Kunstschatzi series where you can enjoy our paintings while sipping a drink and listening to club music.

What would I Iike to be the legacy of my era? That we have opened up the museum and that it enriches our lives: We can be proud of it, it is the envy of the whole word – and it belongs to us all!

issue 01/2021