Hans-Ulrich Obrist

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Professor at The European Graduate School / EGS.


Hans Ulrich Obrist (b. 1968 in Weinfelden, Switzerland) is a London-based curator, writer, art critic, and art historian who sometimes is referred to as “super-curator”[1]. In 2009 and 2016 he was ranked number one of ArtReview’s “Power 100”, a list of the most influential people in the contemporary artworld.

Artistic director at Serpentine Galleries in London since 2016, Obrist studied economic and environmental sciences at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Since his first curatorial work in 1991—“The Kitchen Show” an exhibition taking place in his kitchen in St. Gallen — Obrist has curated more than 300 exhibitions.

Between 1993 and 2000, Obrist was curator of the Viennese museum in progress; also in 1993, he founded the Museum Robert Walser in Gois, Switzerland. In 1996, Obrist co-curated Manifesta 1, the first edition of the European Nomadic Biennial, held in Rotterdam. Curator at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris since 2000, Obrist was appointed Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programmes at Serpentine Gallery in 2006. In 2014, he curated the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, Lucius Burckhardt and Cedric Price—A stroll through a fun palace”.

At Serpentine, Obrist created a "marathon series", including the “Interview Marathon” (a 24-hour interview marathon with artists and directors, co-hosted with Rem Koolhaas, 2006); the “Experiment Marathon” (experiments performed by 100 artists and scientists; with Olafur Eliasson, Julia Peyton-Jones, and Sally Tallant, 2007), the “Manifesto Marathon” (artists, scientists, designers, and philosophers, and activists dealing with the notion of “manifesto”; 2008), the “Poetry Marathon” (performances of poets, artists, philosophers, scholars, 2009), and the “Extinction Marathon: Visions of the Future” (artists, scientists and theorists dealing with the concept of extinction; with Gustav Metzger; Jochen Volz, Lucia Pietroiusti, Ben Vickers, and Claude Adjil, 2014)

In 2013, Obrist co-founded (with Simon Castets) 89plus: “a long-term, international, multi-platform research project […] investigating the generation of innovators born in or after 1989.”

Obrist was recipient of the New York Prize Senior Fellowship by the Van Alen Institute (2007-2008), the CCS Bard Award for Curatorial Excellence (2011) and the International Folkwang Prize by the Folkwang Museum in Essen, Germany (2015); in 2009, he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

He is a member of the board of trustees of Kino der Kunst Festival and Member of the Art Advisory Board at Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary.

Contributing editor of 032c, Artforum, Paradis Magazine and Abitare, as well as co-editor of Cahiers d'Art, Obrist has published extensively. The Interview Project (ongoing since 1996) comprises over 2000 hours of recorded interviews with cultural (key) figures, the longer of which are being published as "The Conversation Series". Until now 28 interviews have been printed as books. Also A Brief History of Curating (JRP/ Ringier & Les Presses du Reel, 2008) is a collection of interviews, attempting “to document the legacy of legendary curators and pioneering ideas within the curatorial field”.

More recent books include Somewhere Totally Else (JRP Editions SA, 2018), Lives of The Artists, Lives of The Architects (Penguin, 2016), Ways of Curating (Faber & Faber, 2014) and A Brief History of New Music (JRP|Ringier & Les presses du réel, 2013).

Influenced and inspired by Édouard Glissant, whom he considers a mentor, Obrist published “The Relative Obscurity Of The Writings Of Édouard Glissant” (in: What Should We Be Worried About? Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night, ed. John Brockman, Harper Perennial, 2014) and, together with Asad Raza, co-edited Mondialité : Or the Archipelagos of Edouard Glissant (Editions Skira Paris, 2018).

[1] See, for example: “Hans Ulrich Obrist: secrets of a super-curator”, Interview by Pierre Huyghe, available at: https://www.theartnewspaper.co...