Charles Esche (born 1963, in England) is a museum director, curator and writer. His focus is on art and how it reflects, provokes and influences changes in society He lives between Edinburgh and Eindhoven.
Since 2004, he has been director of the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands. In 2012, he established together with 6 other European museums the L'Internationale confederation that aims to establish a European modern and contemporary art institution by 2017. He curated Power and Other Things: Indonesia and Art 1835-today at BOZAR, Brussel in 2017 together with Riksa Afiaty.
He is also professor of curating and contemporary art at the University of the Arts London and is co-editorial director of Afterall Journal and Afterall Books with Mark Lewis. Afterall is a contemporary art publisher which was launched in 1998 and is based at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. London. It publishes a respected journal and the Exhibition Histories and One Work of Art series. Afterall also produces occasional readers such as Art and Social Change edited by Esche with Will Bradley.
He has (co)curated a number of international contemporary art biennales and other events including Lost Museum, Kunsthalle Oslo, 2017 and Musée Égaré, Printemps de Septembre, Toulouse 2016; the 31st São Paulo Bienal in 2014,  and the 2015 Jakarta Biennale.
Earlier he made exhibitions including 'It Doesn't have to be Beautiful Unless it's Beautiful at National Gallery of Kosovo, Prishtinë, 2012 (with G.Eilat); Strange and Close for CAPC, Bordeaux, 2011 (a presentation of the Van Abbemuseum Collection); and An Idea for Living, U3 Slovene Triennale, Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana, 2011. In 2009 and 2007 he was co-curator with Khalil Rabah and Reem Fadda of the 2nd and 3rd RIWAQ Biennials, Ramallah, Palestine. In 2005 he was co-curator of the 9th International Istanbul Biennial with Vasif Kortun, Esra Saregidik and November Paynter, and in 2002 the co-curator with Hou Hanru and Song Wan Kyung of the Gwangju Biennale, Republic of Korea. In 2000, he co-curated Intelligence: Tate Triennial at Tate Britain, London with Virginia Button and Amateur: Variable Research Initiatives at Kunstmuseum, Göteborg, Sweden.
Between 2000 and 2004 he was the director of Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art in Malmo, Sweden. Before that he was at Tramway, Glasgow (1993–97) and founded the proto-academy in Edinburgh 1997–2001.
His main work has involved the theory and practice of art museums, but also the qualities of the art centre or biennial. His writings on institutional possibility and policy are useful aids to rethinking the relation between art and social change. A valuable book is the reader Art and Social Change published by Afterall and Tate Publishing and co-edited by Esche and Will Bradley. A selection of his texts was published in 2005 under the title Modest Proposals by Baglam Press, Istanbul in Turkish and English, edited by Serkan Ozkaya.
In 2012 he received the European Cultural Foundation's Princess Margriet Award and in 2013 the Minimum Prize from the Pistoletto Foundation. In 2014 he was awarded the CCS Bard College Audrey irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence.
- Stanhope, Zara (Summer 2014–2015). "How to (read) things that don't exist : Charles Esche in conversation with Zara Stanhope". Art Monthly Australia. 276: 34–37.
- "Kunst en de Thorbecke-paradox". NRC Handelsblad (in Dutch). June 18, 2009.
- A Cosmology of Museums: Interview with Charles Esche. Metropolis M.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-02. Retrieved 2014-02-02.
- "Afterall Books | The MIT Press". Mitpress.mit.edu. 1979-05-10. Retrieved 2016-05-30.
- "Afterall". Afterall. Retrieved 2016-05-30.
- "31st Bienal - Credits - 31a Bienal". 31bienal.org.br. 2014-12-07. Retrieved 2016-05-30.
- "Istanbul Biennale the 9th Istanbul Biennial | Artlink Magazine". Artlink.com.au. Retrieved 2016-05-30.
- "Magazine Features - Pause for Thought". Artnet.com. 1980-05-18. Retrieved 2016-05-30.
- "Concerning Art and Social Change | Mute". Metamute.org. Retrieved 2016-05-30.
- Wolkoff, Julia (2014-01-16). "Charles Esche Wins Bard Curatorial Award - News - Art in America". Artinamericamagazine.com. Retrieved 2016-05-30.
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