Anselm Franke

A master of the essay-exhibition: rich, sprawling topographies of imagery, research and speculation

At Berlin’s HKW, Franke has developed a modus operandi of sprawling shows that slide between political history, anthropology, sociology and art. Yet the German curator is not interested in academic research for its own sake, but as a means of illuminating the present and lighting a path to the future. Take his big show this year, curated with Diedrich Diederichsen, which looked back on the work of German novelist Hubert Fichte in order to, in the curators’ words, ask ‘questions of representation and restitution’ while aiming at the ‘dissolution of boundaries and canonization, and updating colonial power relations’ – a hot topic in Germany and beyond. Among the artists reversing or subverting the colonial gaze in Love and Ethnology. The Colonial Dialectic of Sensitivity were Kader Attia, Miguel Rio Branco and Lili Reynaud-Dewar. While the trend among museums has recently been to accommodate shortening attention spans and venerate accessibility, Franke’s shows both demand and reward our time.