Hans Ulrich Obrist on the artists who changed his life

Peter Fischli and David Weiss inspired the curator to ditch politics and concentrate on contemporary art




Last week we brought you a video of curator Bob Nickas criticising the re-performances of Marina Abramovic, part of a discussion surrounding Phaidon’s Defining Contemporary Art book at MoMA in New York. Today it's the turn of Serpentine gallery Co-Director Hans Ulrich Obrist, who speaks about Swiss artists Peter Fischli and the recently deceased David Weiss. Fischli and Weiss were art's most prominent duo during their more than 30 years of working together, and they hold a special significance for Obrist. One of their accomplishments was to convince him to curate his first exhibition - in his kitchen, of all places. It wouldn’t be over-emphasising the impact of this event to say that it changed the course of contemporary art. It also changed Obrist’s life, inspiring him to work in art instead of economics and political science, which he was studying at the time.

Obrist recalls this event in a 2009 interview: "In 1991 Fischli/Weiss and Christian Boltanski suggested I do my first show in my kitchen in St Gallen, where I was at university. I never cooked – I'd even go out for a coffee.  So these artists took over the kitchen and made it into a place for art. They also brought food into the kitchen for the first time! There was a huge 'Altar' from Fischli and Weiss. Hans-Peter Feldmann exhibited in the fridge, and Richard Wentworth showed his work in the sink. He gave the exhibition its title, 'World Soup'. It lasted three months and had 29 visitors, so it was a rather intimate exhibition.”

Much of what Obrist says in his MoMA talk comes directly from the extensive and heartfelt obituary he wrote for Weiss last week, which can be read here. The Phaidon book on Peter Fischli and David Weiss marks the first time the Swiss duo agreed to participate in the publication of a monograph.



Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world's most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City.
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