Kitsch, Taxidermy and Rare Gems: Stephan Schilgen & the KStar Fundus

The RBMA Berlin 2018 set designer gives us a tour of his unique collection of oddities

September 11, 2018

Walking through Berlin-Mitte’s Hackescher Markt – a tourist hub with fake Bavarian restaurants, bad yet pricey street art and bad yet pricey döner diners, it’s hard to imagine what the area looked like 20 years ago. That was when Stephan Schilgen was running his Kurvenstar club on the nearby Große Präsidentenstraße, where he had “prostitutes sitting at the bar for their late night coffee.”

This infamous club opened in the late 1990s in the former “bad neighborhood,” and what a sensation it was in Berlin’s blooming club scene. “All the clubs back then were basically filthy bunkers,” says Schilgen. “You couldn’t go out with stilettos, you couldn’t lean on any wall.” So instead of fabricating another Berlin deep techno legend, he went on to design a club that was built on style instead of darkness. He worked with delicate interior design, inventing a tricky, innovative system for stage smoke and lighting: “It was chic like crazy, it was sophisticated.”

Parallel to his night-time exploits, Schilgen had a career as an interior designer. He is currently re-thinking the interior aesthetics of Funkhaus as the set designer for Red Bull Music Academy Berlin – with his Kurvenstar company, Schilgen has remodeled the inside of the building, lending it new brightness and vibrant colors. He also started a family, so at one point he decided against nightlife, selling his club in the early 2000s to concentrate on his fascination with design. Maybe that’s why today he seems like a Berlin original, but not like your average Berlin scene veteran. And for sure, that is why we are meeting in the middle of an exuberant collection of style: The KStar Fundus, situated in a string of industrial halls on Berlin’s outskirts, is coveted as a source of exquisite strangeness and elegance amongst German interior designers, as well as Hollywood prop masters. Schilgen guided us through his vast collection of furniture and small-scale preciousness.

“Well, if you’re about to have it more folksy, there you go – over here, we have some milk churns, and there you’ll find Bavarian carvings. Oh, and look, up above, there is this deer – he is cute, isn’t he? And there is a partridge. And maybe add a badger! Like, as German as it gets. And this piglet, where is that from, it is disgusting! Well, add this to the deer and you already have a miniature world. And I can give you a cuckoo clock as well, if you need it.” Anastasia Muna
“Whether I restore the furniture or not depends on the furniture. In America, a lot of collectors pay more for used furniture. ‘This is history, this is soul, this is life,’ they go. It is more common now. All the boys around me, they strip down and upholster again. Everything should be in mint condition – but in reality, it looks like it’s drowned in frosting. For a purist, this is no fun. I was one of the first ones to say: Let it be the way it is!” Anastasia Muna
Anastasia Muna
“You have to cluster. I am not entitled to chaos here – there is enough chaos in my head. Clocks next to clocks, lamps next to lamps. Otherwise they get lonely and sad. Of course I have some smaller sub-collections: my collection of telephones, my collection of TV towers. You buy them again and again. It might be that I have some patterns and preferences – but that never damaged my collection.” Anastasia Muna
“I only collect by intuition. I’m not a label person, unlike so many collectors. If the piece I bought at a flea market for seven Euros fits best next to the 4,000 Euros armchair, it has exact the same value to a flat. I award every piece in my collection the value of singularity.” Anastasia Muna
Anastasia Muna
“I prefer stuff from the West over East. Like these delicate chairs… Of course, stuff from East Germany is way worse in terms of quality. Every innovation failed in the GDR because there was no material: no rosewood, not the right kind of fabric, not the right kind of leather. They lacked everything. What they had: An unbelievable amount of lacquer. The more deleterious, the better. They commingled happily.” Anastasia Muna
“Do you know the guy who invented the Lucky Strike logo, the Coca-Cola bottle and the design of Air Force One? This is Raymond Loewy. He was the first to make those plastic sideboards – look at those color gradients! And now pull the drawer – there’s a whole minibar inside!” Anastasia Muna
“Here’s how it goes: There is an innovation, based in the thinking of a designer. The right people, the cool people admire it. Then it wanders into the minds of the population. Now, the industry reacts. Today, sometimes the industry even reacts before the people do, they produce whether hit or miss. At a certain point, a lamp like this is becoming just another product. Look at a furniture store – everything is retro. Everything is based on a form that was there long ago. Here, I only tolerate the archetype.” Anastasia Muna
Anastasia Muna
“Have a look, this is awesome as well: Voilà, this is West Berlin! You’ll find every type there is: There’s the first Walkman ever! A snarling dog! Brats with behavioural problems! A war widow – oh, her tires are long gone… There’s perverts! Villains! Blacks! And then, above all: ‘Go West’ – this is full throttle ’80s in West Berlin!” Anastasia Muna
Anastasia Muna
“I guess my tolerance towards kitsch is higher than yours. When it comes to interior design and taste, there are some significances that unify people around the globe. One is fur: the Zebra fur, the polar bear fur close to the fireplace. And taxidermy is another. It was the privilege of the nobility and the rich to shoot animals and prep them. Everything you see is 100 years old. If I wouldn’t collect them, they would be eaten by moths and rot somewhere. With my collection, I want to preserve as well. And I know that they are happy here. They can mutually assure each other that they exist. If one of those things is outside, on their own, it will be in the garbage soon. They protect each other mutually. This is disillusioning as well: At some point I won’t be here no more. But they will. That’s the advantage of materiality.” Anastasia Muna

Header image © Anastasia Muna

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