Tag Archives: Kunsthalle Bern


Harald Szeemann (1933–2005)—curator, artist, art historian, and “secretary general” of the legendary documenta 5—was an exhibition maker nonpareil. HARALD SZEEMANN: SELECTED WRITINGS—published in conjunction with last year’s exhibition Harald Szeemann: Museum of Obsessions at the Getty Research Institute (home of the Harald Szeemann Papers)—brings together over seventy essays and interviews, many published in English for the first time.

Richly illustrated throughout, the book contains a 20-page section of plates, including Szeemann’s artwork, exhibition diagrams, installation views, archival photographs, and other ephemera.

“I’m an existentialist. You are thrown in the universe from somewhere and are, once here, responsible for your acts. But it’s always a privilege to fall into a well-made bed. In this case, the Kunsthalle Bern in 1961…

“The historical moment, when the image of the creator/curator became conscious and evident, happened in 1969, when I organized When Attitudes Become Form and the artists arrived and installed their works and the TV reports publicized it. Beuys put his grease on the walls, Heizer made a hole in the public sidewalk, Artschwager distributed his blps in the city, Barry put the building under radiation, Weiner removed a square meter of wall, Ruthenbeck ruined the wooden floor with his wet ashes, Serra threw melted lead against the wall, etc., etc. This was no longer perceived as an art exhibition but as an archaic provocation—not by the artists, but by the curator who allowed it.” — Harald Szeemann*

HARALD SZEEMANN: SELECTED WRITINGS. Edited by Doris Chon, Glenn Phillips, and Pietro Rigolo. Translated by Jonathan Blower and Elizabeth Tucker. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2018.

In New York, the Swiss Institute has restaged GRANDFATHER: A PIONEER LIKE USthe 1974 exhibition Szeemann organized in his Bern apartment two years after documenta 5.


Through August 18.

Swiss Institute

38 St. Marks Place, New York City.

*”Making Things Possible: A Conversation with Harald Szeemann.” Interview by Beti Žerovc. In Harald Szeemann—Selected Writings, 383–393.

From top, left to right: Harald Szeemann, in the 1990s in the Fabbrica Rosa, his office and archive in Maggia, Switzerland, photograph Fredo Meyer-Henn, State Archive of Canton Bern; Szeemann’s address list for his 1968 research trip to New York—for the Kunsthalle Bern exhibition Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form (1969)—includes contact info for Eva Hesse, Hans Haacke, Sol LeWitt, Lucy Lippard, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, and Lucas Samaras; Szeemann (seated) on the last night of documenta 5, 1972, photograph by Balthasar Burkhard; Getty Publications book cover; Lidija Delić, poster art commissioned by the Swiss Institute for the Grandfather: A Pioneer Like Us exhibition; Oasis No. 7, Haus-Rucker-Co (Laurids Ortner, Manfred Ortner, Klaus Pinter, Günter Zamp Kelp), 1972, documenta 5: Questioning Reality—Image Worlds Today, Kassel, 1972; part of Szeemann’s rubber stamp collection; Szeemann. Images courtesy the Harald Szeeman Papers at the Getty Research Institute, © J. Paul Getty Trust.


The Kunsthalle Bern presented Baltiques, a solo show by Denis Savary until December 9 2012.
Denis Savary is a Swiss artist born in 1981 near Lausanne.

A certain number of scenarios reappear cyclically in Denis Savary’s work, such as, for example, tales of erotic longing, domesticity and decapitation. Alma (after Kokoschka), 2008, reproduces the surrogate doll made in 1918 by Oskar Kokoschka to stand in for the love of his life, Alma Mahler, following her marriage to Walter Gropius. Oskar Kokoschka spent a year living with this doll hoping it would console him, going as far as parading her publicly with his friends. After a year, he beheaded the doll at a party and declared his heartache over. In Kunsthalle Bern’s vestibule, all four of Denis Savary’s Almas are gathered as a pack of hairy Amazons on a break.

Or consider Intimités (after Vallotton), 2007, which takes as its starting point an eponymous series of woodcuts by Félix Vallotton. These woodcuts depict scenes of domesticity between Misia Sert and her husband, Thadée Natanson, who was a close friend and early supporter of the Swiss artist as well as the publisher of La revue Blanche. Yearning in silence for years on end for the affection of his patron’s wife, when the time came to break the printing plates, Félix Vallotton kept cutouts of her face. Denis Savary simply reprinted Félix Vallotton’s suite, leaving out the pieces of the image that were actually saved from destruction, thus creating a blank space where the main protagonist’s head should be.


Maldoror, 2012, two gigantic coconut-like creatures made specifically by Denis Savary for his exhibition in Bern. The artist was perusing a Marx Ernst catalog in search of an image of a one-person sauna used to treat syphilitic patients. Instead he found a picture of a coconut-shaped water tank from Africa, which Max Ernst used as a formal reference to paint Eléphant Célèbes, 1921, and which Denis Savary remembered seeing reproduced on the cover of a paperback edition of Lautréamont’s The Songs of Maldoror. The artist bestowed a mythological and slightly anthropomorphic quality to this pair of comical sculptures. “The result stands halfway between a caricatural reminiscence of something that might have been featured in Jean-Hubert Martin’s Les Magiciens de la Terre and the decor of a Tiki Bar,” says the artist.