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By Hans Ulrich Obrist, Anne D'Harnoncourt, Werner Hoffman, Jean Leering, Franz Meyer, Seth Siegelaub, Walter Zanini, Johannes Cladders, Lucy Lippard, Walter Hopps, Pontus Hulten, Harald Szeemann, Daniel Birnbaum

A part of JRP|Ringer's cutting edge Documents sequence, released with Les Presses du Reel and devoted to serious writings, this e-book contains a different number of interviews via Hans Ulrich Obrist mapping the advance of the curatorial field--from early self sustaining curators within the Sixties and 70s and the experimental institutional courses built in Europe and the U.S. during the inception of Documenta and some of the biennales and fairs--with pioneering curators Anne D'Harnoncourt, Werner Hoffman, Jean Leering, Franz Meyer, Seth Siegelaub, Walter Zanini, Johannes Cladders, Lucy Lippard, Walter Hopps, Pontus Hulten and Harald Szeemann.

Speaking of Szeemann at the party of this mythical curator's dying in 2005, critic Aaron Schuster summed up, "the photograph now we have of the curator at the present time: the curator-as-artist, a roaming, freelance dressmaker of exhibitions, or in his personal witty formula, a 'spiritual visitor worker'... If artists due to the fact Marcel Duchamp have affirmed choice and association as valid creative concepts, was once it now not easily a question of time prior to curatorial practice--itself outlined by way of choice and arrangement--would become noticeable as an paintings that operates at the box of artwork itself?"

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I used to go to the gallery a lot. It was one of the few places in Paris that was lively. We would gather there and talk about art every day. HUO It sounds rather like the kind of forum created by the Surrealist magazine Littérature. PH Unlike the Surrealists, we didn’t expel anyone, but all the same, our discussions were infected by politics. There were great debates about how to deal with Stalinism and with capitalism. Some people seemed to think Trotskyism represented a viable alternative. There were people like Jean Dewasne (considered at the time to be a young Vasarely) who tended to take the communists’ side.

HUO Were there other significant galleries? PH There were two galleries then. Denise René was by then the most important one. She was wise enough to show not just 46 the abstract “avant-garde,” but also Picasso and Max Ernst. Then there was Galerie Arnaud, on the Rue du Four, which basically showed lyrical abstraction. Jean-Robert Amaud had a journal called Cimaise, it was where I first encountered Tinguely’s work. His art was shown in the gallery’s bookshop. Gallery bookshops were a way of exhibiting the work of young artists without making a financial commitment.

When the pavilion was finished, Billy insisted on doing some live musical programming. After a month, after three or four artists had performed, Pepsi-Cola took over the project—they wanted automated programming. HUO What was the art scene like in Sweden in the 1960s? PH It was very open and generous. The great art star was Öyvind Fahlström, who died very young, in 1977. I did three shows of Swedish art later in my career: Pentacle, at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, 1968, a show of five contemporary artists; Alternatives Suédoises, at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, in 1971, which focused on Swedish art and life in the early 1970s; and a big show, Sleeping Beauty, at New York’s Guggenheim Museum in 1982 that included two retrospectives—one of Asger Jorn, the other of Fahlström—and occupied the entire museum.

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