Hans Ulrich Obrist

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hans Ulrich Obrist
Hans Ulrich Obrist (2010)
Born1968 (age 54–55)
OccupationArt curator
Notable workThe Interview Project

Hans Ulrich Obrist (born 1968) is a Swiss art curator, critic, and historian of art. He is artistic director at the Serpentine Galleries, London. Obrist is the author of The Interview Project, an extensive ongoing project of interviews. He is also co-editor of the Cahiers d'Art review. He lives and works in London.

Life and work[edit]

Obrist was born in Weinfelden, Switzerland on May 24, 1968.[1] Obrist first gained art world attention at the age 23 in 1991, when as a student in Politics and Economics in St. Gallen, Switzerland, he mounted an exhibition in the kitchen of his apartment entitled The Kitchen Show[2] It featured work by Christian Boltanski and Peter Fischli & David Weiss.[3][4]

museum in progress, 1993–2000[edit]

Some of his early projects Obrist curated for the art initiative museum in progress in Vienna, for example the legendary exhibition museum in progress with Alighiero Boetti on board of Austrian Airlines in 1993 (using images from Boetti's “Airplanes” series, both in every in-flight magazine and as a free jigsaw puzzle, given to passengers),[5][6] Interventions in the daily newspaper Der Standard 1995 with artists like Christian Marclay, Matt Mullican and Lawrence Weiner, and Travelling Eye in the magazine Profil 1995/1996 with John Baldessari, Nan Goldin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Gerhard Richter amongst others.[7]

Obrist has also been a jury member of the art project Safety Curtain, which museum in progress has been realizing at the Vienna State Opera with famous artists like Tauba Auerbach, David Hockney, Joan Jonas, Jeff Koons, Maria Lassnig, Rosemarie Trockel, Cy Twombly and Carrie Mae Weems since 1998.[8]

In 1993, Obrist founded the Museum Robert Walser and began to run the Migrateurs program at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris where he served as a curator for contemporary art. In 1996, he co-curated Manifesta 1, the first edition of the roving European biennial of contemporary art.

Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 2000–2006[edit]

In 2003, Obrist curated "Utopia Station" (a section of the Venice Biennale) and was briefly interviewed about the project in Sarah Thornton's Seven Days in the Art World.[9]

By 2005, The Guardian reported that Obrist had interviewed to succeeed Philip Dodd as the director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.[10]

Serpentine Galleries, 2006–present[edit]

In 2006, Serpentine Galleries director Julia Peyton-Jones appointed Obrist as her co-director of exhibitions and programs.[11] Since Peyton-Jones left the organization in 2016, Obrist has worked alongside successive co-directors Yana Peel (2016–2019) and Bettina Korek (since 2019).[12]

In addition to his role as the Serpentine Galleries, Obrist has been the international programs advisor to the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow (since 2018)[13] and the artistic adviser to The Shed in New York (since 2018).[14][15]

While maintaining official curatorial positions, Obrist is also the co-founder of the Brutally Early Club,[16] a discussion group open to all that meets at Starbucks in London, Berlin, New York and Paris at 6:30 a.m. In 2007, Obrist co-curated Il Tempo del Postino with Philippe Parreno for the Manchester International Festival, also presented at Art Basel, 2009, organised by Fondation Beyeler and Theater Basel. In 2008 he curated Everstill at the Lorca House in Granada.

In 2013, Obrist co-founded with Simon Castets the 89plus, a long-term, international, multi-platform research project with support from Google, conceived as a mapping of the digitally native generation born in or after 1989.[17][18]

In 2014, Obrist curated the Swiss Pavilion at the 14th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, where he presented Lucius Burckhardt and Cedric Price; the building was designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron, and the program was developed with artists Liam Gillick, Philippe Parreno, Tino Sehgal and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster.[19][20]

In 2022, Obrist organized a Jota Mombaça performance staged on San Giacomo in Paludo to kick off the construction of an arts space operated by the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo.[21]

The Interview project[edit]

Obrist's interest in interviews was first triggered during his student years when he read two extensive conversations. The first was between Pierre Cabanne and Marcel Duchamp, while the second was between David Sylvester and Francis Bacon. "These books somehow brought me to art," he has said. "They were like oxygen, and were the first time that the idea of an interview with an artist as a medium became of interest to me. They also sparked my interest in the idea of sustained conversations—of interviews recorded over a period of time, perhaps over the course of many years; the Bacon/Sylvester interviews took place over three long sessions, for example."[22]

Over the years, nearly 2000 hours of interviews have been recorded,[23] which he refers to as "an endless conversation". He began publishing these interviews in Artforum in 1996 and in 2003 eleven of these interviews were released as Interviews Volume 1. Volume 2 was published in Summer 2010. With the release, a total of 69 artists, architects, writers, film-makers, scientists, philosophers, musicians and performers share their unique experiences and frank insights.

Obrist has also published a series of books called "The Conversation Series," which features the longer interviews in his archive. To date, 28 books have been published, each containing a lengthy interview with cultural figures including John Baldessari, Zaha Hadid, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Yoko Ono, Robert Crumb and Rem Koolhaas. A number of Obrist's interviews have also appeared in the Berlin culture magazine 032c, including those with artists Elaine Sturtevant and Richard Hamilton, historian Eric Hobsbawm, and structural engineer Cecil Balmond of Arup.[24]

More recently, Obrist initiated a series of "marathons", a series of public events he conceived in Stuttgart in 2005.[25] The first in the Serpentine series, the Interview Marathon in 2006, involved interviews with leading figures in contemporary culture over 24 hours, conducted by Obrist and architect Rem Koolhaas. This was followed by the Experiment Marathon, conceived by Obrist and artist Olafur Eliasson in 2007, which included 50 experiments by speakers across both arts and science, including Peter Cook, Neil Turok, Kim Gordon, Simone Forti, Fia Backstrom and Joseph Grigely. There was also the Manifesto Marathon in 2008 and the Poetry Marathon in 2009, which consisted of poems read aloud by artists and writers including Gilbert & George, Tracey Emin, Nick Laird, Geoffrey Hill, and James Fenton.[26]

The 2014 Extinction Marathon: Visions of the Future[27] linked the humanities and the sciences to discussions of environmental and human impact on the world today. It was programmed with artist Gustav Metzger whose research addresses issues of extinction and climate change. Notable participants included artists Etel Adnan, Ed Atkins, Jesse Darling, Gilbert & George, Katja Novitskova, Yoko Ono, Susan Hiller, Marguerite Humeau, Trevor Paglen, Cornelia Parker amongst notable model and actor Lily Cole and founder of The Whole Earth Catalog and co-founder of The Long Now Foundation Stewart Brand.

Curatorial practice[edit]

Obrist is an advocate and archivist for artists, and has said: "I really do think artists are the most important people on the planet, and if what I do is a utility and helps them, then that makes me happy. I want to be helpful."[2] He is known for his lively pace and emphasis on inclusion in all cultural activities.

Obrist's practice includes an ongoing exploration of the history of art institutions and curatorial practice. In his early 20s he began to research the topic. "At a certain moment, when I started doing my own shows, I felt it would be really interesting to know what is the history of my profession. I realized that there was no book, which was kind of a shock."[23] He has since helped to rectify this gap with exhibitions on curating and a book entitled A Brief History of Curating. This volume, which is part of Obrist's Interviews project (see above) compiles interviews from some of the leading curators of the 20th century.

While the history of exhibitions has started, in this last decade, to be examined more in depth, what remains largely unexplored are the ties that interconnected manifestations have created among curators, institutions, and artists. For this reason, Obrist's conversations go beyond stressing the remarkable achievements of a few individuals...Obrist's collected volume pieces together "a patchwork of fragments," underlining a network of relationships within the art.[28]

In keeping with his desire to explore the world of art and view it as an open system, Obrist has long advocated a participatory model for his activities. One early project, 1997's "do it", is an ongoing exhibition [29] that consists of instructions set out by artists for anyone to follow. In his introduction to the project, Obrist notes that "do it stems from an open exhibition model, and exhibition in progress. Individual instructions can open empty spaces for occupation and invoke possibilities for the interpretations and rephrasing of artworks in a totally free manner. do it effects interpretations based on location, and calls for a dovetailing of local structures with the artworks themselves. The diverse cities in which do it takes place actively construct the artwork context and endow it with their individual marks or distinctions."[29](sic)

Other activities[edit]

Obrist is a contributing editor of 032c magazine, Artforum and Paradis Magazine, among others.

Obrist has lectured internationally at academic and art institutions including European Graduate School in Saas-Fee,[30] University of East Anglia,[31] Southbank Centre,[32] Institute of Historical Research,[33] and Architectural Association.[34]

Obrist served on the juries that selected Cedric Price for the Österreichischer Friedrich Kiesler-Preis für Architektur und Kunst (2002);[35] Loukia Alavanou for the Deste Prize (2007);[36] Nav Haq and Jay Sanders for the Independent Vision Curatorial Award (2012);[37] Rachel Rose for the Frieze Art Award (2015);[38] Otobong Nkanga for the Belgian Art Prize (2017);[39] Cathy Wilkes (2017),[40] Sheela Gowda (2019)[41] and Lubaina Himid (2023)[42] for the Maria Lassnig Prize; Diego Marcon for the MAXXI Bulgari Prize (2018);[43] Sondra Perry for Rolls-Royce’s first-ever Moving-Image Dream Commission (2021);[44] and Nifemi Marcus Bello for the Hublot Design Prize (2022);[45] among others.

Obrist hold various positions at art organizations, including the following:


In 2009 and 2016, Obrist was ranked number one in ArtReview's annual list of the art world's one-hundred most powerful people.[52]

Other honors include:

Personal life[edit]

Obrist is in a relationship with Koo Jeong A. They share an apartment in London's Kensington district.[54][55]

Publications by Obrist[edit]


  1. ^ "Hans Ulrich Obrist".
  2. ^ a b Roberts, Alison (October 22, 2009), Ulrich-obrist---the-god-of-planet-art.do "Hans Ulrich Obrist - The God of Planet Art"[permanent dead link], The London Evening Standard.
  3. ^ Leon Neyfakh (December 16, 2009), The Man Who Made Curating an Art New York Observer.
  4. ^ Field, Marcus. "An object lesson in what goes where", The Independent, December 5, 1999.
  5. ^ Project webpage of museum in progress on Board, museum in progress, Vienna
  6. ^ Lou Stoppard (3 March 2020), Everyone's a Curator Now: When everything is “curated,” what does the word even mean? New York Times.
  7. ^ Project webpage of Travelling Eye. museum in progress, Vienna
  8. ^ Project webpage of Safety Curtain, museum in progress, Vienna
  9. ^ Thornton, Sarah L. (2009-11-02). Seven days in the art world. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393337129. OCLC 489232834.
  10. ^ Charlotte Higgins (22 January 2005), Swiss curator tipped as new director of the ICA The Guardian.
  11. ^ Farah Nayeri (13 April 2016), Chief Executive for Serpentine Galleries in London Is Named New York Times
  12. ^ Farah Nayeri (13 April 2016), Chief Executive for Serpentine Galleries in London Is Named New York Times
  13. ^ Randy Kennedy (11 February 2013), Russian Art Center Looks to the West for New Curator New York Times.
  14. ^ Robin Pogrebin (6 February 2018), The Shed Isn't Waiting for a Building to Start Programming New York Times.
  15. ^ Andy Battaglia (6 March 2018), The Shed's Commissions for 2019 Opening Involve Gerhard Richter, No I.D., Steve McQueen, Trisha Donnelly, Steve Reich, Arvo Pärt, Many More ARTnews.
  16. ^ Brutally Early Club
  17. ^ Rachel Donadio (6 August 2014), Technology Driving Young Art New York Times.
  18. ^ Scott Reyburn (29 October 2016), How Important Is Art History in Today's Market? New York Times.
  19. ^ Roslyn Sulcas (5 March 2014), An Architect and a Sociologist to be Honored at Swiss Pavilion in Venice New York Times.
  20. ^ Kevin McGarry (6 June 2014), Q. & A.: Hans-Ulrich Obrist on Curating the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale T: The New York Times Style Magazine.
  21. ^ Alexander Greenberger (25 April 2022), Collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo to Turn Venetian Island into Arts Space ARTnews.
  22. ^ Hans Ulrich Obrist A brief history of Curating Artbook.com
  23. ^ a b Neyfakh, Leon. The Man Who Made Curating an Art[dead link] The New York Observer, December 15, 2009.
  24. ^ Ulrich-obrist/ Hans Ulrich Obrist Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine at 032c.com
  25. ^ Greg Allen (22 May 2005), Art of the Undone New York Times.
  26. ^ Orr, Gillian. My Week: Hans Ulrich Obrist. The Independent, October 17, 2009.
  27. ^ Ellis-Petersen, Hannah (October 20, 2014). "The Extinction Marathon: the art world's bid to save the human race". The Guardian UK. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
  28. ^ Obrist, Hans Ulrich (2010). A Brief History of Curating, JRP|Ringier & Les Presses Du Réel, Zurich. ISBN 9783905829556.
  29. ^ a b do it. Archived March 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine e-flux. 1997.
  30. ^ Ulrich-obrist/biography/ Hans Ulrich Obrist[permanent dead link]. Faculty page at European Graduate School. Biography, bibliography, photos and video lectures.
  31. ^ International gathering of story-makers at UEA. University of East Anglia. May 7, 2010.
  32. ^ Martha Rosler and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Ulrich-obrist/ Keynote Lecture from Martha Rosler and discussion with Hans Ulrich Obrist[permanent dead link]. Southbank Centre. Deschooling Society. Episode 5, June 8, 2010.
  33. ^ Stephen Willats and Hans Ulrich Obrist. A Conversation Between and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Archived September 30, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Institute of Historical Research. Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre. Lecture. February 15, 2011.
  34. ^ Markus Miessen, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Armin Linke. "The Archive as a Productive Space of Conflict", Architectural Association. School of Architecture. March 22, 2011.
  35. ^ Kultur: Britischer Architekt Cedric Price erhält Kiesler-Preis Der Tagesspiegel, 7 December 2002.
  36. ^ Loukia Alavanou Wins 2007 DESTE Foundation Prize Artforum, 26 September 2007.
  37. ^ David Ng (10 September 2012), LAXART curator among nominees for Independent Curators award Los Angeles Times.
  38. ^ M.H. Miller (28. April 2015), Rachel Rose Wins Frieze Art Award ARTnews.
  39. ^ Otobong Nkanga wins Belgian Art Prize 2017 Art Forum, 20 April 2017.
  40. ^ Alex Greenberger (12 January 2017), Cathy Wilkes Wins Inaugural Maria Lassnig Prize ARTnews.
  41. ^ Annie Armstrong (12 March 2019), Sheela Gowda Wins 2019 Maria Lassnig Prize ARTnews.
  42. ^ Lubaina Himid – Maria Lassnig Prize 2023 Maria Lassnig Foundation, press release of 28 June 2023.
  43. ^ Robin Scher (3 October 2017), MAXXI Bulgari Prize Names 2018 Finalists ARTnews.
  44. ^ Claire Selvin (21 October 2020), Martine Syms, Sondra Perry, and More Shortlisted for Rolls-Royce Commission ARTnews.
  45. ^ Hannah Silver (3 November 2022), Nifemi Marcus-Bello wins Hublot Design Prize 2022 Wallpaper.
  46. ^ Board of Trustees Kino der Kunst.
  47. ^ Advisory Board Flash Art.
  48. ^ International Council Museum Berggruen.
  49. ^ Advisory Board Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary.
  50. ^ Advisory Board Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA).
  51. ^ Supervisory Board Archived 2019-03-22 at the Wayback Machine Manifesta.
  52. ^ Pac Pobric (20 October 2016), Peripatetic curator Hans Ulrich Obrist tops ArtReview's 2016 Power 100 list The Art Newspaper.
  53. ^ "RIBA announces 12 Honorary Fellowships". architecture.com. 6 October 2009. Archived from the original on April 16, 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2014.
  54. ^ Rachel Cooke (8 March 2015), Hans Ulrich Obrist: ‘Everything I do is somehow connected to velocity’ The Guardian.
  55. ^ Michael Segalov (5 January 2020), Sunday with Hans Ulrich-Obrist: ‘I go to London Zoo – mostly for the architecture’ The Guardian.

External links[edit]

Interview videos[edit]