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PRINT January 2006

International News

Marc-Olivier Wahler

After five years at the helm of the Swiss Institute in New York, Marc-Olivier Wahler will become the new director of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris next month. During his tenure at the Swiss Institute, Wahler emerged as one of the most distinctive curatorial voices in New York. Through his vision we learned about the minute but irreconcilable differences between the world and its artistic representation in exhibitions that could not be easily reduced to a single theme or topic. His group shows, often bearing such open-ended titles as “Untitled (Mayday, Mayday)” (2001), “Extra” (2003), “Five Billion Years” (2004), and “OK/Okay” (2005), introduced us to a whole new language for thinking about, and through, exhibitions, highlighting art’s relation to reality by using terms such as graft, glide, and float. For if reality, as Wahler insists, is unstable, then art must employ a similarly fluctuating approach. A substantial part of Wahler’s curatorial work reflects his relationship to and confidence in artists and their creative practice. He invited a number of artists to curate exhibitions (among them Olivier Mosset and John Armleder) and presented a breathtaking collaboration between Steven Parrino and Jutta Koether (“Black Bonds” [2002]) that was timely in its reintroduction of Parrino as one of the most relevant artistic role models for a younger generation.

At the Palais de Tokyo, Wahler follows the dynamic duo of Nicolas Bourriaud and Jérôme Sans, who started the organization seven years ago. His challenge will not only be to raise one and a half million euros (half of the museum’s budget) but also to restructure a program that heretofore has been energetic to the point of seeming frenzied. Wahler’s initial plans for the Palais resemble his programming at the Swiss Institute, and include a number of artist-curated exhibitions. But rather than just invite artists to put together shows, Wahler will give them control of almost everything—from organizing lectures to coordinating educational support and special events—believing this will give audiences more insight into the idiosyncrasies of artistic process. And although he is relocating to Paris, Wahler refuses to limit his activities to that city: He already has ideas for a number of temporary Palais de Tokyo satellite spaces. One might be coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

Christian Rattemeyer is the curator of Artists Space, New York.