Hans Ulrich Obrist


Cultural Strategist

Strategically positioning and elevating brand purpose through culture and sustainability

The leading light in transdisciplinary approaches to cultural experience, Hans Ulrich Obrist is a global curator and artistic director based between London and Zurich. Consistently connecting the dots between emerging artists and art historical thought, the Swiss curator’s innovative practice and deep curiosity has made him one of the most influential creative tastemakers of the past two decades.

Known for his long-standing role as Artistic Director of the Serpentine, Obrist has curated over 300 shows in his career to date and written and edited numerous books, including 2015’s influential ‘Ways of Curating’ and, in 2021, ‘140 Artists’ Ideas for Planet Earth,’ a manifesto that also serves to demonstrate his ongoing dedication to sustainability and combating the climate crisis. Applying this spirit of expansiveness in his collaborations with brands, Obrist’s keen eye for cultural shifts makes him a kind of soothsayer for our time: creating experiences for global audiences that feel like a summons from the future.

Named by ArtReview as the number one most influential person in contemporary art twice, Obrist is a luminary who continues to push the art world forward by constantly questioning its outdated categories – and by applying his unique expertise to break the boundaries between fashion and technology, physical and digital culture.

Augmented Reality Projects

WORLDBUILDING: Gaming and Art in the Digital Age

5 JUNE 2022 – 10 DECEMBER 2023

Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the JULIA STOSCHEK COLLECTION, the group exhibition WORLDBUILDING: Gaming and Art in the Digital Age is now open in Düsseldorf.

WORLDBUILDING examines the relationship between gaming and time-based media art with a journey through various ways in which artists have interacted with video games and made them into an art form.

“In 2021 2.8 billion people—almost a third of the world’s population—played video games, making a niche pastime into the biggest mass phenomenon of our time. Many people spend hours every day in a parallel world and live a multitude of different lives. Video games are to the twenty-first century what movies were to the twentieth century and novels to the nineteenth century.”

– Hans Ulrich Obrist

Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, 'SHE KEEPS ME DAMN ALIVE,' 2021.

Ian Cheng, 'BOB (Bag of Beliefs),' 2018–2019.

KAWS x Fortnite

2022

US pop artist KAWS exhibited his sculptures and paintings at the Serpentine earlier this year, with a parallel version available in Fortnite, one of the world’s largest online video games with more than 400 million registered accounts.

All built by the Fortnite creative community, players were able to explore the exhibition, interact with KAWS’ artworks and experience his iconic sculptures in a completely new way; the first time Fortnite has made a real-world art exhibit accessible virtually.

“This multi-dimensional project, accessible through virtual and physical portals, demonstrates the remarkable synergies between gaming, space, and sensorial experience.”

– Hans Ulrich Obrist

Tomás Saraceno: Webs of Life

2021

A project by Tomás Saraceno with Acute Art, as part of ‘Back to Earth’ at Serpentine from June 19 to October 17, 2021, ‘Webs of Life’ is an experiment in biodiversity and technodiversity, towards a real Augmented Reality.

Subverting the digital to reconnect with the physical, it invites participants to move from arachnophobia to Arachnophilia, against the Sixth Mass Extinction, and become enmeshed in extended sensitivities of co-existence.

Bagheera kiplingi, the world’s only vegetarian spider, is a personal Augmented Reality (AR) artwork. Participants can gain access to this AR spider by submitting a picture of a real spider or web through the Acute Art app, encouraging more awareness of where spiders/webs live and weave.

The Art of Handwriting

Ongoing Project

Harnessing the power of social media to celebrate the beauty of and revive the lost art of handwriting, this Instagram project includes photos of specially handwritten messages by some of the world’s greatest contemporary artists.

In 2022, Hans Ulrich Obrist’s new book ‘Remember to Dream!’ will gather a selection of 100 handwritten thoughts, dreams, drawings, musings, jokes, quotations, questions, answers, poems, and puns he has received since the project began in 2013.

“It’s about the message, but it’s also about the fact that two handwritings are never the same. It’s the opposite of when, through globalisation, differences can disappear and there is homogenisation. Handwriting is the opposite because two people never have the same handwriting. It is an incredible celebration of difference.”

– Hans Ulrich Obrist

'le point d'ironie'

agnes b. Arts Publication

‘le point d’ironie’ originates from a talk between agnès b., Christian Boltanski and Hans Ulrich Obrist in 1997. Several issues are published every year. Each publication is created by an artist, selected by Hans Ulrich, who makes it their own singular work of art – a collector’s edition.

'do it'

Ongoing Project

Curated by Hans Ulrich, the traveling exhibition (a play on Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ slogan) has become the longest-running and most far-reaching exhibition to ever take place, with 169 cities participating worldwide.

‘do it’ began in Paris in 1993 as a conversation between Hans Ulrich and artists Christian Boltanski and Bertrand Lavier. They were curious to see what would happen if they started an exhibition that could constantly generate new versions of itself. To test the idea, they invited 12 artists to propose artworks based on written “scores” or instructions that can be openly interpreted every time they are presented. The instructions were then translated into 9 different languages and circulated internationally as a book.

‘do it’ (home) was first conceived by Hans Ulrich and produced by Independent Curators International (ICI) in 1995, as a collection of ‘do it’ instructions that could easily be realised in one’s own home. In Spring 2020, in response to the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new version of ‘do it’ (home) was launched.

'Four Scenes' by Robert Ashley

'The Planetary' Dance by Anna Halprin

Vogue Italia: New Beginnings

September 2021 Issue

For Emanuele Farneti and Ferdinando Verderi’s last issue as editor-in-chief and creative director of Vogue Italia, they commissioned nine artists to create artworks that visually or metaphorically represent the rebirth of each day, “New Beginnings”. When invited to create a cover, Hans Ulrich came up with the idea of doing a text cover with Etel Adnan, a pioneer of women’s rights worldwide.

The cover has since been featured in The Fashion Yearbook 2022 and was awarded Winner in the ‘Best Cover’ category at The Impression Awards this year.

Key Interviews

Over his career, Hans Ulrich has interviewed more than 4,000 key figures in the art, music and fashion world.

Kanye West, 2013.

Blondey McCoy, 2017.

Etel Adnan, 2020.

FKA twigs, 2020.

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