Contemporary art is a very successful Saxon export, with works by painters such as Neo Rauch being highly sought after in the international art market. Many of the artists that make up the “New Leipzig School” work in Leipzig’s Baumwollspinnerei, a converted cotton mill complex. The huge site is almost like a miniature town. In the midst of this Mecca for art, in the HALLE 14 visitor centre – housed in the biggest weaving shed, which is a protected historic monument – stands Sophia Littkopf. She is the director of the HALLE 14 association, or the “laboratory for contemporary art in an inspiring environment” as she calls it.

A Saxon Centre Pompidou

The 34-year-old native of Leipzig leads a team of nine and appears ideally cut out for her job as cultural manager: energetic, open and communicative. She aims to “take away people’s fear of art” and envisages a kind of Centre Pompidou, similar to the famous arts and culture venue in Paris, where people from all backgrounds have free access to art and culture. Littkopf is convinced that it’s not always necessary to understand art. It’s much more important for viewers to be moved by the experience. Accordingly, HALLE 14 focuses on five areas: a library; international group exhibitions; a wide-ranging events programme; art activities for children, young people and adults; and a studio programme for up and coming artists from all over the world. Littkopf says: “We want to integrate art presentation, production and education, while at the same time promoting international artistic exchange.” HALLE 14 invites international artists to Leipzig as part of its studio programme. “Some of the artists who have taken part in our residency programme have gone on to win awards. We’re proud to have had these talented young individuals working with us,” says the arts manager.

Inspiring: the (art) world visits Leipzig

One such individual is Rafram Chaddad. The Tunisian-Israeli artist lived and worked in Leipzig from October to December 2013. Asked about his time in HALLE 14, he says: “Leipzig was an incredible experience for me. I worked on a video and asked people from Leipzig to join in. It was great to see how enthusiastic everyone was to get involved. You don’t necessarily find that everywhere.” The current visiting artist is Eric Kaiser from Nancy in France. He admires how the new, old and alternative exist peacefully side-by-side in Leipzig. Above all, he appreciates the amazing art scene in the cotton mill, which was the main reason he came here. It’s a mix that makes Leipzig really special and inspires him, he says.

HALLE 14 is supported by the City of Leipzig and the Free State of Saxony Cultural Foundation (KdFS). Also involved are the Friends Association, Munich’s Federkiel Foundation and other public and private partners.