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 US, the 1974 exhibition Szeemann organized in his Bern apartment two years after documenta 5.
Through August 18.
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.