Anselm Franke

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

Now in his fifth year overseeing visual arts and film at Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Franke is no longer the freewheeling biennale curator of yore (although he was an adviser to this year’s Contour Biennale of moving image, in Mechelen, Belgium); but he continues to think bigger (and more influentially) than most curators. At this point he owns the exhibition-as-essay format, as was amply demonstrated by this year’s 2 or 3 Tigers (on colonialism and modernity in East Asia, cocurated with Hyunjin Kim) and Art Without Death: Russian Cosmism (on the century-old spiritual-artistic movement, now back in vogue). If we feel now to be living in an endless present, Franke continually tracks backward, demonstrating how obscured patterns in history can light our way forward; meanwhile, his challenging shows reflect an admirable desire, as he put it recently, ‘to acknowledge and defend complexity’.