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Artists Hans Haacke
Hans Haacke Photo

Hans Haacke

German Conceptual and Multimedia Artist

Movements and Styles: Conceptual Art, Institutional Critique

Born: August 12th, 1936 - Cologne, Germany

Hans Haacke Timeline

Quotes

"I take the attitude of a sociologist or anthropologist. I note that certain tribes call something art that other tribes dismiss as bullshit or even denounce as blasphemy."
Hans Haacke
"...make something which experiences, reacts to it environment, changes, is nonstable..."
Hans Haacke
"Whatever art may be, it is not science"
Hans Haacke
"The world of art is not a world apart"
Hans Haacke
"A system is not imagined; it is objectively present; it is real"
Hans Haacke
"Interference in an existing situation which thereby affects it - this is something that intrigues me."
Hans Haacke
"Artists, as much as their supporters and their enemies, no matter of what ideological coloration, are unwitting partners in the art syndrome and relate to each other dialectically. They participate jointly in the maintenance and/or development of the ideological make-up of their society. They work within that frame, set the frame and are being framed."
Hans Haacke

"all artworks have a political component - whether it's intended or not."

Synopsis

Hans Haacke largely invented modern 'artivism' as a political strategy for conceptual artists. His work intervenes through the space of the museum or gallery to decry the influence of corporations on society and reveal the hypocrisy of liberal institutions accepting sponsorship from aggressive and conservative capitalists. This work has been immensely significant in prefiguring the modern challenge to 'artwashing', the attempted diversion from harmful business practices through philanthropic engagement with the arts.

Haacke's politics extend to his artistic career, providing a principled example to artists and audiences. He still maintains partial ownership over his artworks after sale, for example, allowing him a measure of control over the extent to which his protest can be coopted by the art market. As a teacher and writer Haacke's influence is not only in the work he directly produced himself, but in the dissemination of his political strategies through later generations of artists. Haacke's fearlessness and refusal to bend in relation to institutional pressure has had an enduring legacy that persists to this day.

Key Ideas

Haacke's work often shows a lack of respect or reverence towards institutions and convention. His curation pieces, for example, lay bare the inner workings of a gallery or museum for the public to see, questioning conventions of behavior towards art objects. He highlights simple or everyday materials (water, grass, a potted plant) as worthy of serious observation, whilst placing historical artifacts on the floor or in rough piles. His work also invites participation, asking that audiences read, absorb and act on the things it reveals. This has contributed to contemporary conversations about access and political responsibility still going on in museums and galleries today.
Despite his resistance to the financial and corporate structures of the art market, Haacke's work has grown in profile to the point where it is now recognized and pursued by museums as work that is highly significant in the development of political visual art practices. After the censure, denial and scandal, his work is now invited into institutions rather than kept out.
Haacke 'lives' his politics even through his interactions with the art world - a market-driven international network of capital. By not relying on the sale of artworks to support himself or his family he is able to decide when and how to exhibit and create, and he maintains an unprecedented level of control over the pieces that he does sell to collectors. This provides a model for artists who wish to critique the art world without being wholly subsumed within its inherently capitalist framework.
Formally, Haacke's work shares characteristics of Land Art and Minimalism but maintains a far sharper political edge than the archetypal examples of those practices. Drawing on highly symbolic processes and materials, his sculptures and installations highlight the same relationships in the gallery space as more conventional minimalist sculpture, but also make more direct allusions to history, politics and the world in which the sculptures are made. His work offers a challenge to the supposed detachment of minimalism or the monumentalism of Land Art, demonstrating to audiences and artists that the same techniques have potential as tools of direct political critique.

Biography

Hans Haacke Photo

Childhood

Hans Christoph Carl Haacke was born in Cologne in 1936, during the period of extreme social change that saw the rise of the Nazi Government in Germany. By the time he was three years old WWII had begun, and by the age of six bombs regularly fell on the street he lived on. In his own words, "I remember walking by a still smoking ruin on my way to school." His father was affiliated with the Social Democratic party and refused to join the Nazis, costing him his job with the city of Cologne. Such traumatic episodes led the Haacke family to move from Cologne to a small rural town in the southern district of Bad Godesberg.

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Hans Haacke Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Hans Haacke
Interactive chart with Hans Haacke's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp
August SanderAugust Sander
Bertolt Bretch
Marcel BroodthaersMarcel Broodthaers
Yves KleinYves Klein

Personal Contacts

Otto Piene
George RickeyGeorge Rickey

Movements

MinimalismMinimalism
Tachisme
ZERO group
Conceptual ArtConceptual Art
Pop ArtPop Art

Influences on Artist
Hans Haacke
Hans Haacke
Years Worked: 1956 - present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Louise LawlerLouise Lawler
Andrea Fraser
Olafur EliassonOlafur Eliasson
Mark Lombardi

Personal Contacts

Carl AndreCarl Andre

Movements

Conceptual ArtConceptual Art
Land ArtLand Art
Institutional CritiqueInstitutional Critique
Artivism

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Vitoria Hadba Groom

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Lewis Church

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Vitoria Hadba Groom
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Lewis Church
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