The book Everything Hans Ulrich Obrist Always Wanted to Know About Hans Ulrich Obrist is an artwork by the Dutch artist Tim Hollander. In Hollander’s work, influences of graphic design, and reflection on the art world often come back. Hollander also works as a curator, and often collaborates with other artists.
The book as a sculpture
At first sight, the viewer might think that the artwork Everything Hans Ulrich Obrist Always Wanted to Know About Hans Ulrich Obrist is a book. After all, it has a cover and pages. Upon opening it, though, the viewer will see that each page is empty, apart from the page number. With this artwork, Tim Hollander approaches the book as a sculpture. By placing the book within the setting of the art exhibition, this sculpture playfully refers to the aura that books have. People generally perceive a text as more important once it’s presented in a book, than when it’s for example presented online or on a flyer. This means that the book in itself has sculptural qualities. Its form means something, apart from its contents.
For those who often visit contemporary art museums or art bookshops, the cover might look familiar. Through using a similar title and graphic design, this book comically refers to the oeuvre of Hans Ulrich Obrist (born in 1968). Obrist is a Swiss art historian and critic, and one of the most prominent artistic thinkers of our time. He is currently the director of the Serpentine Gallery in London. Some call Obrist ‘the curator who never sleeps’, because of his massive oeuvre and presence in the contemporary art field.
The ultimate book by, for, and about Hans Ulrich Obrist
In 2011, Obrist published the book Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Curating But Were Afraid To Ask. But to Tim Hollander, this publication feels more like a book about Obrist than about curating. That’s how its cover became the main inspiration for Hollander’s book sculpture. It is a response to Obrist’s gigantic output and his curatorial poster-boy image. It is the ultimate book by, for, and about Hans Ulrich Obrist.
The only written text in this book-sculpture is a disclaimer in the back. This disclaimer refers to the original books by Obrist and to the designers. Zak Group made the original design for the cover. With this careful use of references, this work is both a comic reference as well as a homage to Obrist’s vast presence in the art world. But it is also a playful critique of the art world and art criticism.