Anselm Franke

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

Over his five years as head of the department of visual arts and film at Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Franke has made the research-driven expanded-exhibition format that questions perceived truths and accepted norms his own. Parapolitics: Cultural Freedom and the Cold War explored the relationship between ideology and artistic freedom through an investigation into the CIA’s funding of arts organisations during the Cold War era. Neolithic Childhood took the work of ‘extraacademic’ art historian Carl Einstein as a vehicle to explore (via no less than 180 artworks and 600 archival sources) the development of ideas about ‘world art’ and how Europe’s interwar avant-gardes reached out to different branches of culture and science as a means of interrogating their present. For Franke, of course, history is a means of interrogating our present in turn. And his methods are increasingly prevalent in the work of other curators (as the early chapters of Hamburger Bahnhof’s Hello World exhibition demonstrated) and fellow travellers (among them Forensic Architecture).