Landmark Exhibitions
Contemporary Art Shows Since 1968

Gianni Motti, Viale Harald Szeemann, 2005, Giardini, Venice Biennial
Gianni Motti
Viale Harald Szeemann, 2005, Giardini, Venice Biennial
Photo: © courtesy the artist
Friday 10 October 2008, 10.30–19.00
Saturday 11 October 2008, 10.30–18.15

Landmark Exhibitions: contemporary art shows since 1968 brings together world-renowned artists, critics, curators, museum directors and scholars to identify and analyse key moments in the histories of exhibitions of the last forty years.

This two-day symposium argues that the exhibition, long overlooked as an epiphenomenon, is central to our understanding of contemporary visual cultures. Participants will discuss the (in)visibility of exhibitions, the proliferation of biennials, the exhibition as archive, the politics of curating, and the sitedness of exhibitions.

With Carlos Basualdo, Koen Brams, Guy Brett, Eric de Bruyn, Daniel Buren, Lynne Cooke, Chris Dercon, Teresa Gleadowe, Walter Grasskamp, Reesa Greenberg, Hans Haacke, Nathalie Heinich, Vasif Kortun, Lucy Lippard, Sebastián López, Lynda Morris, John Rajchman, Suely Rolnik and Chin-Tao Wu.

Curated by Public Programmes in collaboration with Antony Hudek.

A collaboration between Tate Modern and Jan van Eyck Academie with the Royal College of Art and The London Consortium

Tate Modern  Starr Auditorium
£40 (£30 concessions), booking required
For tickets book online
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Book tickets online

Access for wheelchairs and pushchairs  Hearing loop available  


10:30   Nicholas Serota: Welcome

10:40   Marko Daniel: Introduction

Session 1: Keynote

10:55   Hans Haacke: Lessons Learned
Hans Haacke presents lessons learned in nearly four decades of exhibiting and working with exhibitions, dating back to his studies at the Werkakademie in Kassel when he worked for the 1959 Documenta. In his own work, he has witnessed how the social, economic, and political underpinnings of exhibitions can affect the seemingly independent decisions of curators and reflects on the “staging” of an exhibition as an intellectual and aesthetic challenge, by reference to his own participation in exhibitions in major museums, Documentas, and Biennales. While his direct involvement has brought a deeper understanding of the factors that influence the making and reception of exhibitions, Haacke explores how, occasionally, conflicts erupt in public.

11:45   Q&A moderated by Achim Borchardt-Hume

12:15   Lunch

Session 2: The Immaterial Subject of Exhibitions

Taking as starting point Jean-François Lyotard’s and Thierry Chaput’s 1985 exhibition Les immatériaux, this session will foreground the question of the historiographic (in)visibility of exhibitions. Because it was co-curated by a philosopher preoccupied with language and historical narrative, and because it took place at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris – arguably the first ‘postmodern’ museum – Les immatériaux highlights critical issues for any future study of exhibition histories, namely an exhibition’s mise-en-scène, its curatorial ‘script,’ and its relation to the museum as ideological and physical site.

13:15   Antony Hudek: Chair

13:35   John Rajchman: Les Immatériaux: A Critical Aesthetic
The exhibition Les immatériaux marked a moment when a philosopher undertook to show his ideas through an original exhibition format in a major museum. It thus poses the question of how philosophy has figured in the history of exhibitions, and the kinds of spaces art and art institutions might provide today for philosophical discussion of this kind. In looking back at this exhibition in these terms, several principles for this larger debate are advanced.

14:00   Nathalie Heinich: About /Les Immatériaux/: A Sociological Outlook
When Les immatériaux took place, the Centre Pompidou was a very exciting place for all kind of experiments, at the cross-roads of arts, politics and social sciences. Among those experiments, Jean-François Lyotard’s proposal was indeed an event: for the first time, a philosophical discourse was displayed to a large audience not through words, but through images and objects. A kind of utopia seemed to be realised under our eyes. I had just started my career as a sociologist and completed a survey on the reception of the exhibition. It gave me the opportunity to experiment with new methods in qualitative research, as well as to grasp the emergence of a new phenomenon, that is, the possibility to consider exhibition curators as genuine authors.

14:25   Suely Rolnik: A Shift towards the unnameable. Poetics & politics in Cildo Meireles’s work
The movement of institutional critique in the 1960s and 70s generated a rich and varied production in Latin America, where the political dimension was added to the elements of the art system being problematised. The proposals that resulted were ‘events’, in which politics took shape at the core of the poetics and remained inseparable from it, creating a disruptive gesture. This fusion of poetics and politics will be examined in Red Shift, an installation by the Brazilian Cildo Meireles, which is a striking example of this type of proposal. The work can be seen at the exhibition of the artist´s oeuvre that opens on October 13 at the Tate Modern.

14:50   Q&A moderated by Antony Hudek

15:20   Tea and coffee in the Starr Auditorium Foyer

Session 3: Not Exhibitions

Between the late 1960s to the turn of the 1980s the parameters of what constituted an exhibition went from defying sitedness – most notably, that of the museum – to a renewed, if altered, commitment to place. This session seeks to better understand how exhibitions fit, or not, into available historiographic models of site-specificity, such as those put forward by Rosalind Krauss in her 1979 essay “Sculpture in the Expanded Field” and, more recently, by Miwon Kwon in her book One Place After Another. How, if at all, to incorporate the “not-exhibition” of the 1970s into Krauss’ Klein diagram in which “sculpture” finds itself at the intersection of “not-landscape” and “not-architecture”? How do different genealogies of exhibitions play into what Kwon describes as a passage from a “phenomenological or experiential” type of site-specificity in the 1960s to the “social/institutional” understanding of site-specificity of the 1970s? To what degree can one extend the qualification of “time-based” to the specific "medium" of exhibitions? And how did the positions assigned in the making of exhibitions shift during this period, between the artist, the curator, the art historian, and the critic?

15:50   Chris Dercon: Chair

16:00   Daniel Buren: The status quo in question

16:20   Lynda Morris: Unconcealment: The First Decade of Conceptual Art. International Network of Dealers Exhibitions and Public Collections 1967-1977. Data from the Research of the late Dr Sophie Richard
Sophie Richard’s economic data shows the radical early support for Conceptual Art given by dealers and curators in Northern Europe. The data shows the importance of exhibitions in Northern Europe in establishing the reputation of American artists. The data suggests that the most important dealers in this initial phase: Konrad Fischer, Paul Maenz, Heiner Friedrich, Anny de Decker, Fernand Spillemaeckers, Art and Project and Nicholas Logsdail should be acknowledged as curator-dealers.

16:40   Guy Brett: The Elasticity of Exhibition
Experiments in exhibition form; solo shows and collaborative endeavours organised by artists themselves; artists as curators of their own exhibitions; artists as curators of found materials; interventions in existing exhibitions; lived-in museums; disguised exhibitions, unintentional exhibitions and fictitious collections – some themes I will touch on, with examples from various times and places.

17:00   Q&A moderated by Chris Dercon

17.30   Break

Session 4:Exhibition Transcriptions

18:00   Koen Brams: The secret in the work of Jef Cornelis
Koen Brams will present and discuss Cornelis’ televised documentation of landmark exhibitions from the 1960s to today. Brams will analyse the various (and variously successful) strategies Cornelis employs to register the visitor’s physical experience of complex contemporary art exhibitions such as Documenta and Sonsbeek; to portray the artist in the exhibition, primarily by means of the interview; and to re-script exhibitions through filmic tropes.

Response and Q&A moderated by Eric de Bruyn

18:45   Drinks served in the Starr Auditorium Foyer

Saturday 11 October

10:30   Marko Daniel: Introduction

Session 5: Keynote

10:40   Lucy Lippard: Curating by Numbers
Curating by Numbers
concerns my curatorial practice with a focus on the “Number shows” and their randomly ordered card catalogues, from 1969-1974. These are related to the blurring of identities between artists, curators, and critics in the 1960s conceptual art, and to some more recent exhibition strategies.

11:30   Conversation with Teresa Gleadowe, followed by Q&A

12:20   Lunch

Session 6: Exhibitions Cross Borders (The Rise of Biennials)

Modernist and postmodernist art histories are bound to that of exhibitions, from the Surrealists’ opposition to the 1931 Exposition Coloniale Internationale et des Pays d’Outre-Mer (Parc de Vincennes, Paris) to the debates sparked by Magiciens de la terre (Centre Pompidou, Paris, 1989) and the 2000 Lyon Biennial (the last two curated by Jean-Hubert Martin). As it draws on the attractions of the fair, the exhibition lends itself to a controlled encounter with cultural difference (perceived as such). The recent surge in international biennials and fairs – many of them located outside of the traditional art centres of Western Europe and North America – appears to simultaneously extend and complicate these twentieth-century histories, since the biennial and fair formats increasingly address diverse, 'local' audiences.

13:20   Sebastián López: Chair

13:30   Chin-Tao Wu: Art and the Spectacular: Biennials sans frontières
Over the last twenty years, the art biennial has mushroomed. Its popularity as an institutional framework, by means of which cities and city governments are empowered to join the global art world, has been taken as proof of the collapse of the concept of the centre and its peripheries. In their place a nirvana has been constructed in which the contemporary art world has been globalised like some vast artistic McDonald’s and its structures democratised and decolonialised. Drawing on data compiled from the biggest of the biennials, Documenta, between 1968 and 2007, the present paper sets out to understand the power implications of biennials by looking more closely, and empirically, at the artists who are their lifeblood, and at the significance of the global cultural flows generated by the biennials’ current popularity.

14:00   Carlos Basualdo: Response

14:15   Vasif Kortun: Response

14:30   Lynne Cooke: Response

14:45   Q&A moderated by Sebastián López

15:30   Tea and coffee in the Starr Auditorium Foyer

Session 7: How to Tell the Histories of Exhibitions?

Until recently a largely invisible medium, the exhibition allows for dramatic short-circuits to disrupt the teleological retelling of history. This, in turn, poses the question of the possibility of the meta-exhibition: the exhibition as self-reflexive means for the retelling of specific exhibition histories or curatorial practices. Various recent essays have begun to draft such histories in the making: through exhibitions (Stéphanie Moisdon’s and Hans-Ulrich Obrist’s 2007 Lyon Biennial), archival-based publications (Afterall’s forthcoming series of books, each devoted to a single exhibition) and through institutional archaeology. Just as the 2007 Lyon Biennial attempted to project “the history of a decade that has not yet been named,” this session will appraise the present and future state of “exhibition studies” as a form in search of academic and institutional validation.

16:00   Mark Nash: Chair

16:10   Walter Grasskamp: To Be Continued: Periodical Exhibitions Documenta and sculpture.projects in Münster
Twenty-eight years ago, in 1980, I started to do research on the history of the first documenta (1955), experiencing all the obstacles this relatively young branch of art historical documentation had in store. In the last three decades the history and documentation of art exhibitions have become a more common feature, and general questions can be considered. My essay focuses on the periodical exhibition that seems to be the eldest and most successful form of exposing works of art, even before they were regarded as such. As recent examples I compare the history of the Kassel documenta with another prominent regular exhibition, the Sculpture.Projects in Münster.

16:50   Reesa Greenberg: Remembering Exhibitions: From Point to Line to Web
How do we remember exhibitions? How do exhibitions remember themselves? I want to answer these key questions by introducing what I believe is a new exhibition genre: the remembering exhibition. I’ll look at a number of case studies of exhibitions of the 1990s and the early years of the 21st century that remember Modernist landmark exhibitions through replica or riff and then discuss open-source, open-access, online archives that reform the recording, reception and reiteration of exhibitions as a virtual reprise. Throughout, I will argue for the need to remember exhibitions in as many ways as possible, to include typographic and topographic recording modalities, and to create shared commons meta-sites so that exhibition histories can become more diverse and better known.

17:30   Q&A moderated by Mark Nash

Speakers, Chairs and Panellists

Carlos Basualdo
Carlos Basualdo is Curator of Contemporary Art for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 2006, he initiated two exhibition series, Notations and Live Cinema, both of which are devoted to the permanent collection and video. He was a part of the curatorial teams for Documenta11, the 50th Venice Biennale and conceived and curated Tropicalia: A Revolution in Brazilian Culture (MCA Chicago, 2004, Barbican Gallery London, 2005). He is currently working on the Bruce Nauman exhibition for the U.S. Pavilion at the 2009 Venice Biennale, as well as a survey exhibition of artist Michelangelo Pistoletto (2010). Since 2004, Basualdo has taught a course on the history of exhibitions at the IUAV in Venice.

Achim Borchardt-Hume
Achim Borchardt-Hume is Curator for Modern and Contemporary Art at Tate Modern where he has curated a number of Collection displays including monographic rooms by Ellsworth Kelly and Gerhard Richter as well as large-scale exhibitions such as Albers and Moholy-Nagy: From the Bauhaus to the New World, the eighth commission in The Unilever Series Doris Salcedo: Shibboleth, and Rothko currently on at Tate Modern.

Koen Brams
Koen Brams is the director of the Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, and a specialist of the work of Flemish filmmaker and producer Jef Cornelis.

Guy Brett
Guy Brett is a writer and curator living in London.

Eric de Bruyn
Eric C.H. de Bruyn teaches art history and media theory at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Recent publications include “A Show of Hands: Richard Serra’s Films” in De Witte Raaf 125 (2007), “Topological Pathways of Post-Minimalism” in Grey Room 25 (2006), “A Film in Five Episodes,” in David Lamelas (Vienna, 2006), "Land Art in the Mediascape" in Ready to Shoot: Fernsehgalerie Gerry Schum (Dusseldorf, 2004) and "The Expanded Field of Cinema, or Exercise on the Perimeter of the Square" in X-Screen: Film Installations and Actions in the 1960s and 1970s and Film as Anomaly (Vienna, 2004).

Daniel Buren
Daniel Buren has punctuated the last 40 years of art with interventions, critical texts, public art projects and collaborations with artists from different generations. Throughout his career Buren has created artworks that complicate the relationship between art and the structures that frame it. Daniel Buren, as his biographies mention, lives and works in situ, and his work has a strong relationship with the space in which it is presented. All of Buren's interventions are 'paintings' that appropriate and colour the space. They are critical tools addressing questions of how we look and perceive, and the way space can be used, appropriated, and revealed in its social and physical nature.

Lynne Cooke
Lynne Cooke was appointed Curator at Dia Art Foundation, New York in 1991. In 2008, she became chief curator at the Reina Sofia in Madrid. Co-curator of the 1991 Carnegie International, and Artistic Director of the 1996 Sydney Biennale, she has also curated exhibitions in numerous venues in North America, Europe and elsewhere. She has been on the faculty for Curatorial Studies at BardCollege in addition to teaching as a visiting scholar in the Graduate Fine Art departments of several universities. Among her numerous publications are recent essays on the works of Rodney Graham, Jorge Pardo, Francis Alÿs, Richard Serra, Agnes Martin, and Zoe Leonard.

Marko Daniel
Marko Daniel is Curator of Public Programmes at Tate Modern and, with Antony Hudek, organiser of Landmark Exhibitions.

Chris Dercon
Chris Dercon is an art historian, documentary filmmaker and cultural producer. As program director of PS1 in New York he showed the work of Hélio Oiticica and David Medalla. In 1990 he became director of Witte de With, Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, known for seminal exhibitions including Ken Lum, Eugenio Dittborn and Paul Thek. From 1996 he was Director of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, where his many shows included Unpacking Europe and he also curated exhibitions for the Bienniale of Venice and the Centre Georges Pompidou. In 2003 Dercon became Director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich.

Teresa Gleadowe
Teresa Gleadowe was the first director of the Curating Contemporary Art department at the Royal College of Art (inaugurated in 1992 as the first postgraduate programme in Britain to specialise in curatorial practice as it relates to contemporary art) and was Head of Department until 2006.

Walter Grasskamp
Walter Grasskamp studied literature, philosophy and sociology, and subsequently art history at the universities of Cologne, Constance and Aachen. He was professor for art history at the polytechnics in Münster and Aachen and has been chair of art history at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich since 1995. His numerous publications include key texts on the history of museums, collections, exhibitions and the art market; on sculpture in the public sphere, consumer culture, and contemporary art. Recent books include: 200 Jahre Akademie der Bildenden Künste in München (edited with Nikolaus Gerhart and Florian Matzner, Munich: Hirmer 2008) and Sonderbare Museumsbesuche. Von Goethe bis Gernhart (Munich: C.H.Beck, 2006).

Reesa Greenberg
Reesa Greenberg is an art historian and museum consultant whose research focuses on contemporary exhibition practices and display. She is co-editor of Thinking About Exhibitions, Routledge, 1996, and currently writing a book about museums, collectors, display and the Holocaust. Her recent work examines relationships between on-site and online exhibitions. (

Hans Haacke
Hans Haacke was born in Cologne, Germany, in 1936 and has lived in New York since 1965. He has had solo-exhibitions all over the world including at the Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, 1972; Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, 1978; Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 1979; Tate Gallery, London, 1984; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, 1986; Centre Pompidou, Paris, 1989; Venice Biennale, 1993; Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, 1995; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1996; Serpentine Gallery, London, 2001; Generali Foundation, Vienna, 2001; Akademie der Künste, Berlin and Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, 2006. He participated in various Documentas, Biennials of Venice, São Paulo, Sydney, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Gwangju (Korea), and at the Whitney. With Nam June Paik, he was awarded the Golden Lion for the German pavilion at the 1993 Venice Biennial.

Antony Hudek
Antony Hudek is currently Research Fellow at Camberwell College of Arts, London. With Marko Daniel, he is co-organiser of Landmark Exhibitions, a project he initiated as Researcher in the Theory Department of the Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, in 2006-7.

Nathalie Heinich
Nathalie Heinich is research director in sociology at the CNRS / EHESS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique / Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris). She focuses on the sociology of arts (artistic professions, aesthetic perception, conflicts about contemporary art); socio-anthropology of identity crisis (survivors’ testimonies, fiction, authorship) and epistemology of social sciences.

Vasif Kortun
Vasif Kortun is the founding director of PlatformGarantiContemporaryArtCenter, Istanbul. At the same time he also founded Proje4L, Istanbul Museum of Contemporary Art, where he curated seminal exhibitions of artists from Turkey. He was the first director of the Museum of the Center for Curatorial Studies at BardCollege. He was co-curator of the 2005 Istanbul and the 2008 Taipei Biennials, and organised the Turkish pavilion for the 2007 Venice Biennial.

Lucy Lippard
Lucy R. Lippard is the author or 20 books (including an experimental novel) on contemporary art and culture. The most recent are The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicultural Society (1997) and On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art and Place (1999). Since 1966, she has curated some fifty exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad, and is the editor of her community newsletter in Galisteo, New Mexico.

Sebastián López
Sebastian Lopez is an art historian and curator. Hewas Director of Iniva, London; founding Artistic Director of Daros-Latinamerica, Rio de Janeiro, and Director/Artistic Director of the Gate Foundation, Amsterdam, an International Institute for Visual Art and Culture. He was Curator of the Shanghai Biennale 2004. He has taught at universities in Latin America, the USA and Europe, and written numerous books and articles on contemporary art. As an independent curator he has curated and co-curated countless exhibitions including Refugees in The Netherlands (1984); The Democracy Show (on issues of democracy in The Netherlands) and Not a Chinese Show (on the fashion of country-exhibitions, taking the case of China).

Lynda Morris
Lynda Morris worked on When Attitudes Become Form at the ICA 1969 and for Nigel Greenwood. Her MA by Thesis at RCA 1971-3 researched the Teaching of Beuys, Art & Language and NSCAD. She wrote for Studio International and worked in Germany and Belgium. In 1991 she developed the annual exhibition EAST international in Norwich. Selectors have included: Konrad Fischer, Jan Dibbets, Richard Long, Giuseppi Penone, Marian Goodman, Nicholas Logsdail, and Lawrence Weiner. She holds a Senior AHRC Award at NorwichUniversityCollege of the Arts working on Picasso 1944-1973 for Tate Liverpool and is working on EAST09 with Art &

Mark Nash
Mark Nash is Professor and Head of Department Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art London. He was a co-curator of Documenta11, co-curator for film for The Short Century and Berlin Biennial 3. Solo curated exhibitions include Pere Portabella (MOMA, 2007) and Experiments with Truth at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia (2005). He recently published a collection of essays, Screen Theory Culture (Palgrave, 2008), and is working on a book on moving image art for Duke University Press.

John Rajchman
John Rajchman is a philosopher working in art and art institutions. He is Associate Professor and Director of MA Programs, Department of Art History, Columbia. He is the author of many books and essays, including the Deleuze Connections and Constructions (both MIT). He is currently completing a volume on French Philosophy since 1946 with Etienne Balibar.

Suely Rolnik
Suely Rolnik, is a psychoanalyst, researcher, curator and professor at the Universidade Católica de São Paulo; she also teaches on the Independent Studies Program (PEI) at MACBA, Barcelona. She spent nine years in exile in Paris in the 1970s. She has carried out extensive research into the work of Lygia Clark who was also the subject of a project in which she realised an archive of 65 films of interviews and an exhibition, co-curated with C. Diserens at the Musée de Beaux-arts de Nantes (2005) and the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo (2006). She is author, along with Félix Guattari, of Molecular Revolution in Brazil (MIT, 2007).

Nicholas Serota
Nicholas Serota has been Director of Tate since 1988. He was previously Director of the WhitechapelArtGallery (1976-88) and of the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford (1973-76). He has curated many exhibitions, including A New Spirit in Painting at the RoyalAcademy in 1981. He continues to act as a curator at Tate, being responsible for Robert Ryman in 1993, Donald Judd and Cy Twombly at Tate Modern in 2004 and 2008 and Howard Hodgkin at Tate Britain in 2006. His Walter Neurath Lecture Interpretation or Experience: The Dilemma of Museums of Modern Art was published in 1997.

Chin-Tao Wu
Chin-tao Wu specialises in contemporary art and culture, and has contributed to the New Left Review, the New Statesman, Third Text, and the Journal of Visual Culture. Her latest book, Privatising Culture: Corporate Art Intervention since the 1980s, published by Verso in 2002, has been translated into Turkish (2005), Portuguese (2006), and Spanish (2007). She is currently Assistant Research Fellow at the Academia Sinica in Taiwan and an Honorary Research Fellow of University College London.