An acclaimed curator reflects on how, and why, we look at art.
When he was a teenager, Obrist (Ai Weiwei Speaks, 2011, etc.) asked artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss, whose witty, irreverent works he had seen at Kunsthalle Basel (Switzerland), if he could visit their studio. That visit, writes the author, “became my eureka moment.” Now, having curated 250 exhibitions—his first housed in his own kitchen—Obrist offers insights on art, artists and the meaning of curation. “There is, currently,” he writes, “a certain resonance between the idea of curating and the contemporary idea of the creative self, floating freely through the world making aesthetic choices of where to go and what to eat, wear, and do.” For Obrist, though, the role of curator is specific to art—“the curator has to bridge gaps and build bridges between artists, the public, institutions and other types of communities.” The curated space, though, need not be within a museum or gallery: Obrist has mounted exhibitions in a hotel restaurant and monastery library, and he conceived “a mobile platform” within a museum that functioned as “a kind of public laboratory” for installations in unexpected places—a stairwell, for example, or the museum’s offices. He also experimented with a portable museum consisting of a small picture frame that could be carried around and displayed. This Nano Museum “came to symbolize the idea that museums might one day disappear from our lives.” Indeed, one artist scheduled to exhibit in the tiny space lost the frame. Besides reflections on curating, Obrist writes about some of his aesthetic heroes, including critic and anarchist Félix Fénéon, collector and Ballets Russes founder Serge Diaghilev, and writer Robert Walser, a favorite of Kafka’s.
A succinct, personal perspective on the intellectual sources and enthusiasms of a distinguished figure in the contemporary art world.