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Trailblazers in the Art World: Hans Ulrich Obrist

What is curation? How does it help shape our culture? Does it impact the way we view the world? These are the many questions that float about the art world, and they don’t really tend to have clear cut answers. Perhaps, for the purposes of this article, it would be best to describe curation as the act of creating connections through art. Or at least that’s what Hans Ulrich Obrist, one of the world’s most famous curators, describes his work to be. By changing the way we design exhibitions as well as disseminate art education, he has made waves in the art scene by making art more accessible. A world once considered closed to more ‘regular’ people has opened and is ready for everyone to explore.

Obrist at Olmo Calvo in Madrid, Spain.

So, how did Obrist create this change? Well, the simple answer would be that when he got hired to be the director for Serpentine Galleries in London, England, he was able to position himself close to some of the most prominent people in art. The long answer being that Obrist had always been interested in art, though he often didn’t have access to it, and began working in galleries as a teenager to explore his passion. From the real life experience he gained from working with museum professionals, he started hosting exhibitions solely designed by himself. That then translated into him being appointed director of the Serpentine Galleries. One thing of note here is that this all took place from the 80’s to the early 2000’s, making his success that much more admirable due to the fact that curation wasn’t a widely known profession at the time.

​​Obrist at Sir John Soane’s Museum in Westminster, England.

Even though the title of his profession is fine art curation, Obrist does not consider himself to be a curator. At least, not in the occidental sense. He considers his work to be more utilitous; he is a tool for artists to use to be seen and heard. By viewing his job in this way Obrist is able to remain free of the heavy monetization of art production in the industry, and actually focus on the presentation and diffusion of ideas and the history behind them. This gives him the upper hand in an industry that is being so heavily affected by the homogenization of globalisation. Through remaining physically in the art world and idealistically outside, he is able to design exhibitions that last—not just ones that will be popular for the ‘now’. This is what makes him a trailblazer.

Exhibitions and fine art curation have been so focused on the art that is popular in the moment, that it forgets what it was originally intended for. Obrist has not, and has thus brought change to the way that museums and the art world in general think about presenting artists and their work. Curation is not just about showing the work, but instead about creating a memorable environment that impacts the soul of the viewer and connects them with ideas outside of themselves.

If you would like to know more about Hans Ulrich Obrist and his projects please visit: . Hopefully he will change your perspectives on art, just as he did ours.


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