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    Harald Szeemann: Museum of Obsessions

    February 6–May 6, 2018

    Getty Research Institute

    A black-and-white photograph documents a large building that has been fully wrapped in white fabric and twine, transforming it into a work of art thronged by people. The photograph was taken in the middle of a crosswalk stretching toward the building, and a taxi enters the frame on the right side.

    Wrapped Kunsthalle, Bern, Switzerland, 1967–68, Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Part of 12 Environments: 50 Years of the Kunsthalle Bern, Bern, 1968. The Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30. Photo: Balthasar Burkhard. © Christo

  • A list of artists' names, addresses, and telephone numbers written in various colors of ink fills the front and back of a ragged piece of paper. The paper has been reinforced by tape in the shape of a cross that has turned yellow with age.

    Front and back of Harald Szeemann's address list for his visit to New York, 1968. The Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30

  • A color photograph documents an artwork by a collective of avant-garde architects: an oversized, clear bubble protruding from the side of a stone building, containing two palm trees attached to a silver gridded structure. A yellow sports car is parked on the sidewalk underneath it.

    Oase No. 7 (Oasis No. 7), Haus-Rucker-Co (Laurids Ortner, Manfred Ortner, Klaus Pinter, and Günter Zamp Kelp), 1972. Part of documenta 5: Questioning Reality—Image Worlds Today, Kassel, 1972. The Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30. Photo: Balthasar Burkhard

  • A black-and-white photograph documents a performance: the artist James Lee Byars is in a white suit, standing on the ledge of a large columned building with his back turned toward the camera.

    Calling German Names, performed by James Lee Byars at documenta 5: Questioning Reality—Image Worlds Today, Kassel, 1972. The Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30. Photo: Balthasar Burkhard. © The Estate of James Lee Byars

  • A black-and-white photograph documents the curator Harald Szeemann, a heavily bearded man in his thirties, sitting on a wooden throne in the middle of a crowd with a passport in his hand.

    Harald Szeemann (seated) on the last night of documenta 5: Questioning Reality—Image Worlds Today, Kassel, 1972. The Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30. Photo: Balthasar Burkhard

  • Bottom and side views of eleven of Harald Szeeman's rubber stamps are arranged in three rows.

    Office stamps from Harald Szeemann's archive, Maggia, Switzerland, ca. 1970–1974. The Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30. From Adrian Notz and Una Szeemann, eds., Harald Szeemann: Obsession Dada (Zurich, 2016), vol. 3, p. 40. Composite photo concept and design: Studio Coco, Corina Künzli

  • A scattering of postcards from the College of 'Pataphysics in pale blues, greens, oranges, pinks, and yellows, depicting a line drawing of writer Alfred Jarry's face, a whimsical map of the world, and photographs of men, among others.

    Postcards from Harald Szeemann's collection of 'pataphysics material. The Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30

  • A color photograph documents a troupe of early 20th-century dancers in a grassy meadow in front of a towering mountain; three are nude and three are wearing vibrant robes as they pose with their arms raised and hands interlocking.

    From left, dancers Totimo, Suzanne Perrottet, Katja Wulff, Maja Lederer, Betty Baaron Samoa, and Rudolf von Laban at Monte Verità in Ascona, Switzerland, 1914. The Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30. Photo: Johann Adam Meisenbach

  • A black-and-white photograph documents a spare room with thick ceiling beams and a light-filled, half-round window. Pushed up against the wall near the window are two low chairs and a bed made from intertwined tree branches.

    Furniture designed by Karl Gräser, ca. 1900–1920. The Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30

  • A color photograph documents two thin tree branches strung with two circular metal discs and five snail shells, one part of an artwork by outsider artist Armand Schulthess that once occupied an entire forest.

    Enzyklopädie im Wald (Encyclopedia in the Forest), Armand Schulthess, 1952–1972. The Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30. Photo: Ingeborg Lüscher

  • A color poster reproduces a color sketch of a gray man with his arms raised, his back facing toward the viewer, and his head at the center of a violet circle. A series of concentric pale blue, green, yellow, peach, and pink circles expand out from the first circle. The title and date of the exhibiti

    Poster for the exhibition Der Hang zum Gesamtkunstwerk: Europäische Utopien seit 1800 (Tendency toward the Gesamtkunstwerk: European Utopias since 1800), Zurich, Markus Raetz and Albin Uldry, designers, 1983. The Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30. © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ProLitteris, Zurich. Reproduction, including downloading of ARS member artist works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

  • A color photograph documents a spacious gallery, occupied on the left by a large model of a verdant hillside estate that sits on a white base. A row of small, framed paintings lines the back wall, and the wall on the right side displays a larger painting of a blindfolded man dressed entirely in red

    Model of Gabriele D'Annunzio's Il Vittoriale degli Italiani (The Shrine of Italian Victories) installed in Tendency toward the Gesamtkunstwerk: European Utopias since 1800 at Kunsthaus Zürich, 1983. Peter Bissegger, designer; Verena Eggmann, photographer. Photo: the Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30. © Verena Eggmann, courtesy of Bernd Steiner (Verena Eggmann Papers, Zentralbibliothek Zürich)

  • A black-and-white photograph documents the curator Harald Szeemann, a thickly bearded man with disheveled hair, standing behind a podium, delivering a lecture in front of an abstract geometric drawing by the psychic and healer Emma Kunz.

    Harald Szeemann lecturing in front of Werk Nr. 003 by Emma Kunz. The Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.30. Artwork courtesy Emma Kunz Zentrum. © Anton C. Meier

Harald Szeemann: Museum of Obsessions

February 6–May 6, 2018, Getty Research Institute

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One of the most distinguished advocates of conceptual art and postminimalism, and a figure who became synonymous with the advent of globalism in contemporary art, Harald Szeemann (Swiss, 1933–2005) developed a new form of exhibition-making that centered on close collaborations with artists and a sweeping international vision of contemporary culture. Szeemann's exhibitions covered vast areas of research, challenging traditional narratives of art history and often embracing creative fields outside the visual arts. For each of his more than 150 installations and exhibitions, Szeemann added materials to his vast library and research archive, which he referred to as the "Museum of Obsessions." His museum comprised not only the physical place of the archive but also a mental landscape that encompassed all moments of genius and artistic intensity treated in Szeemann's exhibitions, both realized and unrealized, past and future.

This exhibition is divided into thematic sections. "Avant-Gardes" addresses Szeemann's early exhibitions and his engagement with the artistic vanguards of the 1960s and early 1970s. "Utopias and Visionaries" explores a trilogy of exhibitions Szeemann organized in the 1970s and 1980s that rewrote the narrative of early 20th-century modernism as a story of alternative political movements, mystical worldviews, and utopian ideologies. "Geographies" examines Szeemann's own Swiss identity, his penchant for travel, and his focus on broad international exhibitions and regional presentations later in his career.

A reconstruction of Szeemann's 1974 exhibition Grandfather: A Pioneer Like Us is on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Generously supported by Warren Lichtenstein, in honor of Tommy Lasorda. With additional support from Sotheby's. Also supported by the Danielson Foundation.

The exhibition tour is substantially supported by a grant from the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.

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EXHIBITION TOUR DATES

Harald Szeemann: Museum of Obsessions
Kunsthalle Bern (Jun 9–Sept 2, 2018)
Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (Oct 12, 2018–Jan 20, 2019)
Castello di Rivoli Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli (Feb 26–May 26, 2019)
Swiss Institute, New York (June 27–August 18, 2019)

Grandfather: A Pioneer Like Us
Gerechtigkeitgasse 74, Bern (Jun 9–Sept 2, 2018)
Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (Oct 12, 2018–Jan 20, 2019)
Castello di Rivoli Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli (Feb 26–May 26, 2019)
Swiss Institute, New York (June 27–August 18, 2019)

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