Hans Haacke

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Hans Haacke (born August 12, 1936) is a German-born artist who currently lives and works in New York.


  • The artist's business requires his involvement in practically everything. He works in reference, not to a section of the world, but to the whole world.
    • In: Arts/Canada, Vol. 26, (1969), p. 75
  • It would be bypassing the issue to say that the artist's business is how to work with this and that material and manipulate the findings of perceptual psychology, and that the rest should be left to other professions... The total scope of information he receives everyday is of concern. An artist is an isolated system,... he has to continuously interact with the world around him. Theoretically there are no limits to his involvement.
    • In: Art international, Vol. 13, (1969), p. 56; As cited in: Art Inquiry: Recherches Sur Les Arts. Vol. 1-4. (1999), p. 116


  • I chose to paint because the medium as such has a particular meaning. It is almost synonymous with what is popularly viewed as Art - art with a capital A-with all the glory, the piety, and the authority that it commands.

"Museums, Managers of Consciousness," 1983


Hans Haacke, "Museums, Managers of Consciousness" (1983), Art in America, no. 72 (February 1984), pp. 9-17

  • The art world as a whole, and museums in particular, belong to what has aptly been called the "consciousness industry."
  • Starting on a large scale towards the end of the 1960s in the United States and expanding rapidly ever since, corporate funding has spread during the last five years to Britain and the Continent. Ambitious exhibition programs that could not be financed through traditional sources led museums to turn to corporations for support. The larger, more lavishly appointed these shows and their catalogues became, however, the more glamour the audiences began to expect.
  • In an ever-advancing spiral the public was made to believe that only Hollywood-style extravaganzas were worth seeing and that only they could give an accurate sense of the world of art. The resulting box-office pressure made the museums still more dependent on corporate funding. Then came the recessions of the 1970s and 1980s. Many individual donors could no longer contribute at the accustomed rate, and inflation eroded the purchasing power of funds. To compound the financial problems, many governments, facing huge deficits—often due to sizable expansions of military budgets—cut their support for social services as well as their arts funding. Again museums felt they had no choice but to turn to corporation for a bail-out.


  • I have a particular interest in corporations that give themselves a cultural aura and are in other areas suspect. Philip Morris presents itself in New York as the lover of culture while it turns out that if you look behind the scenes, it is also a prime funder of Jesse Helms, someone who is very hostile to the arts.
    • Hans Haacke in: Roberta Smith "A Giant artistic Gibe at Jesse Helms," in New York Times, April 20, 1990; Republished in: The New York Times Guide to the Arts of the 20th Century: 1900-1929, (2002) p. 2929
  • I think it is important to distinguish between the traditional notion of patronage and the public relations maneuvers parading as patronage today. Invoking the name of Maecenas, corporations give themselves an aura of altruism. The American term sponsoring more accurately reflects that what we have here is really an exchange of capital: financial capital on the part of the sponsors and symbolic capital on the part of the sponsored. Most business people are quite open about this when they speak to their peers. Alain-Dominique Perrin, for example, says quite bluntly that he spends Cartier's money for purposes that have nothing to do with the love of art.
    • Pierre Bourdieu and Hans Haacke, Free Exchange, Stanford: Stanford University, (1995), p. 17.

Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre, and Elsewhere, 1998


In: Michael Kimmelman. Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre, and Elsewhere. Random House, 1998.

  • When works of art are presented like rare butterflies on the walls, they're decontextualized. We admire their beauty, and I have nothing against that, per se. But there is more to art than that...
  • ... Museums are managers of consciousness. They give us an interpretation of history, of how to view the world and locate ourselves in it. They are, if you want to put it in positive terms, great educational institutions. If you want to put it in negative terms, they are propaganda machines. They're both. This is something usually not acknowledged and there's probably a good reason why: because if this were in one's consciousness, then one would be a bit more immune to brainwashing — assuming brainwashing is the intent.
  • A standard line, promoted by people like Clement Greenberg,... is that politics contaminates art, and Manet is often cited as an example of art for art's sake.


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