Nicolaus Schafhausen to resign as director of Kunsthalle Wien citing rise in nationalist politics

Nicolaus Schafhausen


The director of Kunsthalle Wien, Austria, Nicolaus Schafhausen has announced that he will step down from his role in March 2019. In a public letter, the German curator cited the ‘resurgence of nationalist politics in Austria’ as the reason for his intended departure. Schafhausen, who has been director of the Kunsthalle Wien since 2012, reached an agreement with the City of Vienna for the early dissolution of his contract, which wasn’t to expire until 2022.

Schafhauser’s public letter has been published on Kunsthalle Wien's website:

‘After six years as Director of the Kunsthalle Wien, and after realizing more than 40 exhibitions together with my team, I believe it’s time to look back with pride at what has been achieved. The Kunsthalle Wien has, under my leadership, devoted itself to an innovative and experimental program that, as an open forum, promotes and explores aesthetic and socio-political concerns. The opposition to the program was partly foreseeable given the political position the institution has advocated. Kunsthalle Wien is an institution that is at the centre of controversial debate that has manifestly hit a sore spot in the self-image and self-realization of Vienna’s cultural landscape. Projects such as Political Populism or How To Live Together contributed to the positioning of Kunsthalle Wien around topical issues that radiate on an international level. Solo exhibitions presented, such as Florian Hecker and Ydessa Hendeles are recent examples – due to their radical diversity – of the artistic and curatorial range covered.

What next? For me, this question presents itself rather differently than before. Due to the current resurgence of nationalist politics in Austria, and the situation occurring across Europe, the reach, impact and the possibilities of institutions such as Kunsthalle Wien seem to be put into question. Cultural institutions that engage with complex societal and artistic challenges will require substantially stronger political backing in the future.

I have therefore decided to leave on a high note and not continue as before. I am looking forward to new challenges beyond the boundaries of conventional institutions. My thanks go to the City of Vienna, the Supervisory Board and the staff of the Kunsthalle Wien for their support and their trust. Over the remaining months, I will support the Kunsthalle Wien as best I can and oversee the transition. From 2019 on, I will be breaking new ground.’

Forthcoming exhibitions overseen by Schafhausen at Kunsthalle Wien include:
Kate Newby: I can’t nail the days down, opening 2 September, 2018
Olaf Nicolai: There Is No Place Before Arrival, 13 July – 7 October, 2018
Solo exhibition: Annette Kelm, curated by Nicolaus Schafhausen, opening December 2018


24 May 2018