A Pioneer Like Us

Glenn Phillips

Glenn Phillips will present an overview of the extensive archival collection produced by prolific Swiss curator Harald Szeemann (b. Bern, 1933-2005) across nearly five decades, as well as its forthcoming exhibition in Los Angeles at the Getty Research Institute (GRI) and Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA), opening in February 2018, and subsequent tour in Europe. Acquired by the GRI in 2011, this archive, spanning a linear kilometer of material dating back to 1836, is a comprehensive resource for the study of modern and contemporary art and the development of exhibition-making since the late 1950s. Amongst correspondence with major artists, curators, and scholars, it features ephemera, prints, drawings, floor plans, date books, videotapes, photographs, objects, artists’ books, and subsections on topics ranging from anarchism, science fiction, and pataphysics to lesser-known artistic movements of the 19th and 20th centuries.

In addition, Phillips will present on the presently ambitious reconstruction of Szeemann’s independent exhibition Grandfather: A Pioneer Like Us (Grossvater – Ein Pionier wie wir), 1974, which will debut at the ICA and feature in the upcoming exhibition tour. The first exhibition to take place after Szeemann’s infamous Documenta 5 (1972), and intimately installed at the curator’s apartment in Bern, Grandfather displayed over 1,100 personal effects previously owned by Szeemann’s late grandfather, Etienne, who worked as a prominent hairdresser in England and Switzerland during his lifetime. Through a romantic consideration of kitsch, absurdity, and sentiment, it is a remarkable expression of the curator’s approach to exhibition-making, as well as the richness of his archive at large.