Harald Szeemann


    Harald Szeemann is the grand, though not so very old, man of avant-garde exhibition-making in Europe. When he speaks despairingly or appreciatively of his “sons” or “grandsons”—from Rudi Fuchs at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam to Hans-Ulrich Obrist of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris—Szeemann rhetorically lays claim to patriarchal status at the center of a pool of curatorial talent that has shaped the general public’s perception of experimental art in the postwar era. With Szeemann as their bearded elder, his protégés have been the leading impresarios in the age of Europe’s

  • Harald Szeemann

    There are two fundamental possibilities available to an artist: to negate, stripping away until nothing remains, or to accumulate, to embrace additively until one has reached the limit of fullness. The subversive, at times contrarian Dieter Roth—loving and caustic, chaotic and precise—pursued both paths at once. His way was then, by necessity, never the one of least resistance. And over the course of a lifetime, the wounds (both those inflicted on others and those he received himself) accumulated in his memory, so that he would tap and thus exacerbate the torment and escape it through an abundance


    EVER SINCE HE “DECLARED HIS INDEPENDENCE” by resigning his directorship at the Kunsthalle Bern in 1969, Harald Szeemann has defined himself as an Ausstellungsmacher, a maker of exhibitions. There is more at stake in adopting such a designation than semantics. Szeemann is more conjurer than curator—simultaneously archivist, conservator, art handler, press officer, accountant and above all, accomplice of the artists.

    At the Kunsthalle Bern, where Szeemann made his reputation during his eight-year tenure, he organized twelve to fifteen exhibitions a year, turning this venerable institution into a


    THE INVENTOR AND ORIGINAL practitioner of Instantaneism is a rebel, a lone anarchist of the senses who is never quite recuperable. His life is one of first idealistic questioning, then virulent questioning, and ultimately precise questioning of the preceding moment, without a sideways glance to the following moment when he would want to give everything. He is the hypersensitive gambler, contradictory out of anxiety, brilliant in overcoming the anxiety, intelligent (“because the intelligent person must have only one speciality—namely. to be intelligent”). These days we say: of course, as a macho