Big changes are coming soon at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt: Philipp Demandt, who has led the renowned museum since 2016, will be succeeded by Sebastian Baden on 01 July 2022. This was the decision of the museum's supervisory board at its meeting on Thursday, December 8, at the suggestion of the chairman of the supervisory board, Lord Mayor Peter Feldmann, and the deputy chairman of the supervisory board, Head of the Department of Culture Ina Hartwig. The appointment is subject to approval by the Magistrate of the City of Frankfurt am Main. Baden has been Curator of Contemporary Art, Sculpture and New Media at the Kunsthalle Mannheim since 2016.
Mayor Feldmann says: "With Dr. Sebastian Baden, the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is not only getting a renowned and knowledgeable director. His current work in the field of contemporary art and at the interface with social issues will set new impulses - and, as in the past, allow the Schirn to appeal not only to a Frankfurt or nationwide audience, but also to an international one. At the same time, I am pleased that Dr. Sebastian Baden will continue the tradition of the previous directors and lead a house with high artistic standards, a diverse range of themes, but also an enormous broad impact. I look forward to working with him. I would like to thank Dr. Philipp Demandt from the bottom of my heart for his work to date and look forward to continuing to work with him in his role as director of the Städel Museum and the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung."
Culture and Science Director Hartwig added: "With the curator and art historian Dr. Sebastian Baden, we have gained for the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt a personality who consistently focuses on the interplay between art and the pressing issues of the present day - democracy and despotism, economy and ecology. The Schirn, with its great tradition as a popular, discursive exhibition house, will increasingly address these questions in the future. Dr. Sebastian Baden finds the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt to be a very well-positioned institution that will work together with the team on the planned reorientation in the sense of a cluster of modern and contemporary art. This is an opportunity to realign the house in terms of structure and content. I look forward to working with Dr. Sebastian Baden."
Baden himself is looking forward to the new challenge: "It is a great honor for me to be able to lead one of the most important and distinguished exhibition houses for modern and contemporary art in Germany. The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt with its great, committed team offers an outstanding international exhibition history that I would like to take up and develop further. It is my conviction that the complexity of the present is increasingly threatened and that we can therefore learn especially from art how much potential lies in diversity. Together with the Schirn team, I would like to develop exhibitions and formats that motivate us to take unusual perspectives on our lives. Especially in these challenging times, I want to work to ensure that innovative exhibition concepts are committed to a vibrant democracy."
Baden, born in 1980, has been curator of contemporary art, sculpture, and new media at the Kunsthalle Mannheim since October 2016. Previously, he taught art history and media theory at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe from 2010 to 2016. He was a fellow in the Research Training Group "Image-Body-Medium. An Anthropological Perspective" and wrote his PhD on "The Image of Terrorism in the Art System" in 2014 (edition metzel, 2017). Baden develops the ideas and concepts of his curatorial work against the background of his long and varied experience as an art educator, artist and art historian. He initially studied art education at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Karlsruhe and literary studies at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, as well as liberal arts at the Bern University of the Arts. Immediately after graduating, he founded the gallery "Ferenbalm-Gurbrü Station" in Karlsruhe together with his brother Lukas Baden, with numerous international collaborations between 2006 and 2011. His art historical focus includes topics such as the history of the art exhibition, art and institutional critique, as well as political iconography and biodesign. In 2013, he was awarded the AICA International Incentive Prize for Young Art Critics for his paper on "Documenta" art criticism. Baden is also a member of the association and the board of the Netzwerk-Terrorismusforschung, a scholarly platform for the interdisciplinary analysis of terrorism in history and the present.
His work at the Kunsthalle Mannheim is characterized by exhibitions with contemporary artists who address current issues of society, the environment, and the economy. Sebastian Baden focuses on transdisciplinary projects, partnerships with universities and independent initiatives, and the presentation of new media formats. At the Kunsthalle Mannheim he curated solo exhibitions by Anselm Kiefer, John Bock, William Engelen, Sofia Duchovny, Christian Falsnaes, Mwangi Hutter, Wolfgang Ganter, Johanna Hullar, Hiwa K, Zipora Rafaelov, Anike Joyce Sadiq, Gustav Seitz, Marinella Senatore as well as the opening exhibition of the new building with works by Jeff Wall.
In terms of group and special exhibitions, he was responsible for the external touring exhibition "On the Move" (2017) during the construction of the new Kunsthalle as well as the contemporary part of "Construction of the World - Art and Economy 1919-1939 / 2008-2018" (2018) with works by international artists and collectives on the development of capitalism in the 20th and 21st centuries. The current exhibition "MINDBOMBS - Visual Cultures of Political Violence" (2021/2022), curated by Sebastian Baden, on the visual history of terrorism, takes as its starting point important works from the Mannheim collection, including works by Édouard Manet, and shows how contemporary art, as a critical medium of enlightenment, looks behind the construction of enemy images and propaganda.