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Hans Haacke (born 1936 in Cologne, Germany) is a conceptual artist. Haacke studied at the Staatliche Werkakademie in Kassel, Germany, from 1956 to 1960. From 1961 to 1962 on a Fulbright grant at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Haacke's early work as a conceptual artist focused on systems and processes. Some of the themes in his early works from the 1960s, such as Condensation Cube (1963-65), include the interactions of physical and biological systems, living animals, plants, and the states of water and the wind. He also made forays into Land Art. His later works have dealt more with socio-political structures and the politics of art. Haacke has been outspoken throughout his career about his belief that museums and galleries are often used by the wealthy to seduce public opinion. From 1967 to 2002 Haacke was a professor at the Cooper Union in New York City.
One of his best-known works, Shapolsky et al. Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, A Real Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971 exposed the questionable transactions of Harry Shapolsky's real-estate business between 1951 and 1971. Haacke's 1971 one-artist show at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, which was to include this work and which also made an issue of the business and personal connections of the museum's trustees, was cancelled by the museum's director six weeks before the opening. An exhibition at the Wallraf-Richartz museum was also cancelled due to the inclusion by Haacke of the work "Manet '74" that connected the funding of the museum to the cultural politics of the Cold War.
In 1970, Haacke created an installation commissioned for the MoMA in New York entitled MoMA Poll. The work was a query that asked "Would the fact that Governor Rockefeller has not denounced President Nixon's Indochina Policy be a reason for you not voting for him in November?" with two ballot boxes (made of plexi-glass). The end result at the end of the exhibition was approximately twice as many Yes ballots as No ballots. The installation is an early example of Institutional Critique and criticized a board trustee and the institution (MoMA).
In 1978 Haacke had a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford for which he created the work "A Breed Apart", which made explicit criticism of the state owned British Leyland exporting vehicles for police and military use to apartheid South Africa. In 1979 he had a solo exhibition at The Renaissance Society, featuring highly political paintings which reproduced and altered print ads for Mobil, Allied Chemical, and Tiffany & Co. In the later 1980s Haacke moved towards using paintings and larger scale sculptural installation. In 1988 he was given an exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London for which he did a portrait of Margaret Thatcher featuring cameos of Maurice and Charles Saatchi.
Haacke's 1990 controversial painting Cowboy with Cigarette turned Picasso's Man with a Hat (1912-13) into a cigarette advertisement. The work was a reaction to the Phillip Morris company's sponsorship of a 1989-90 exhibition about Cubism at the Museum of Modern Art. Hans Haacke published a book about the ideas and processes behind his and other conceptual art called Framing and Being Framed.
Haacke has since had solo exhibitions at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. In 1993 Haacke shared, with Nam June Paik, the Golden Lion for the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Haacke's installation "Germania" made explicit reference to the Biennale's roots in the politics of fascist Italy. Two years later Haacke teamed with Pierre Bourdieu and published Free Exchange, a volume of their conversations. Haacke and Bourdieu expressed a shared interest in the relationship between art and politics.
Haacke lives and works in New York.
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