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Nicolaus Schafhausen

Curating contemporary art against the backdrop of a local context
19–31 August 2019

Nicolaus Schafhausen, political populism
Political Populism, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, 2015, exhibition view, photo: Stephan Wyckoff

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Curatorial practice and theory

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Teaching language
English (teacher also speaks German)

What to bring
Interest in a critical examination of contemporary art and curatorial practices


Maximum number of participants

Juliane Bischoff

Participation fee
€ 700.– (€ 540.–)

How do we curate exhibitions of contemporary art in places with a culture of remembrance? That is the question to be dealt with in this course. The focus is on the impact of art beyond the classic White Cube of museums and exhibition centres.

Taking the example of a special exhibition in the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism, we will explore questions of how far the specific local, historical and current context plays a role in curating contemporary art, and how far it can be productively incorporated. How can current artistic positions enter meaningfully into a dialogue with institutional remembrance work? How, in polarised times, can cultural work make an effective social contribution through art? How far is it necessary to re-politicise art today? Or should art be considered free of social responsibility? How can the emancipatory potential of art be interpreted today? How can different perspectives be productively combined? Not least – how can the public be meaningfully involved?

Students will work individually, or preferably in groups, on specific examples they themselves choose, and develop concepts for exhibitions/projects. One or two excursions to Munich are planned during the course.
Nicolaus Schafhausen is a German-born curator, director, author, and editor of numerous publications on contemporary art. Since 2011 he has been the Strategic Director of Fogo Island Arts, Canada, an initiative of Shorefast, a charitable foundation dedicated to finding alternative solutions for the revitalisation of areas prone to emigration.

Schafhausen is the Artistic Director of Tell me about yesterday tomorrow (November 2019 - August 2020), an exhibition at the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism about the future of the past. He has curated numerous international exhibitions such as Media City Seoul 2010 and the Dutch Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010. He was the curator of the German Pavilion for the 52nd (2007) and 53rd Venice Biennale (2009), and curator of the Kosovo Pavilion for the 56th Venice Biennale (2015). Schafhausen also co-curated the 6th Moscow Biennale in 2015.

In addition to curating exhibitions, national pavilions and other projects, Schafhausen has led institutions such as the Frankfurt Kunstverein (DE), Stuttgart Künstlerhaus (DE), and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam (NL). He was Founding Director of the European Kunsthalle, Cologne (DE), conceived as a project to examine the conditions and structures of contemporary art institutions independent of local government mandates. In 2019 he stepped down as Director of the Kunsthalle Wien/Vienna, a position he had held since 2012, for political reasons, observing that the future of such cultural institutions was thrown into question by rising nationalist policies in Austria and elsewhere. He has called for stronger support from independent state institutions and cultural administrations in times of right-wing populist movements. In the future Schafhausen aims to work beyond the boundaries of conventional institutions.

2019 Tell me about yesterday tomorrow, NS-Dokumentationszentrum München, Munich (DE). 2018 Antarktika. Eine Ausstellung über Entfremdung, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna. 2017 Thomas Bayrle. Wenn etwas zu lang ist – mach es länger, Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna. How To Live Together, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna. 2015 Politischer Populismus, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna. How To Gather? Acting in a Center in a City in the Heart of the Island of Eurasia?, (co-curated with Bart De Baere and Defne Ayas) 6th Moscow Biennial, Moscow. 2014 Disappearing Things, (co-curated with Vanessa Joan Müller) 55th October Salon, Belgrade.

Brigitte Oetker, Nicolaus Schafhausen (eds.): Was wissen wir? Was haben wir? Was fehlt uns? Was lieben wir?. Jahresring 65, Sternberg Press, Berlin 2018.
Alexandra McIntosh, Nicolaus Schafhausen (eds.): Edgar Leciejewski: Tones, Fogo Island Arts/Sternberg Press, Berlin 2018.
Defne Ayas, Bart De Baere, Marie Egger, Nicolaus Schafhausen (eds.): How To Gather. Acting Relations, Mapping Positions, Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam 2017.
Luca Lo Pinto, Nicolaus Schafhausen (eds.): Pierre Bismuth. Things I Remember I Have Done, But Don’t Remember Why I Did Them, Sternberg Press, Berlin 2016.
Nicolaus Schafhausen: Isa Genzken, Oil: German Pavilion, Biennale di Venezia 2007, DuMont-Literatur-und-Kunst-Verlag, Cologne 2007.
Nicolaus Schafhausen
Portrait photo: Steffen Jagenburg