303 GALLERY AGE OF AQUARIUS AI WEIWEI ALDO MONDINO ALIGHIERO BOETTI ALLORA & CALZADILLA AMSTERDAM ANDREAS GURSKY ANDREAS SCHON ANDY CROSS ANDY WARHOL ANISH KAPOOR ANNE IMHOF ANSELM KIEFER ANTON CORBIJN ARNDT ARNOLFINI ART PROSPECT ARTISSIMA ARTIST BOOK ATTILA CSORGO BALI BARBARA KRUGER BARCELONA BASEL BASQUIAT BEATRIX RUF BELA KOLAROVA BENJAMIN DEGEN BEPI GHIOTTI BERLIN BERND E HILLA BECHER BETTY WOODMAN BIENNALE BORIS MIKHAILOV BRISTOL BROOKLYN MUSEUM CAI GUO-QIANG CAMILLE HENROT'S CANDIDA HOFER CARDI GALLERY CARL ANDRE CAROL RAMA CAROLEE SCHNEEMANN CARSTEN HOLLER CASTELLO DI RIVARA CASTELLO DI RIVOLI CATHERINE AHEARN CENTRE POMPIDOU CHARLES RAY CHARLINE VON HEYL CHICAGO CHRIS BURDEN CHRIS WATSON CHRISTIAN BOLTANSKI CHRISTIE'S CHTO DELAT COLOGNE CONCEPTUALISM COPENHAGEN COSMIC CONNECTIONS CRISTIAN BOLTANSKY CY TWOMBLY DAMIEN HIRST DAN GRAHAM DANH VO DANIEL EDLEN DANIEL RICH DANNY MC DONALD DAVID ZWIRNER DIA ART FOUNDATION DIET WIEGMAN DIETER ROTH DOCUMENTA DUBAI DUSSELDORF ED ATKINS EDEN EDEN ELGER ESSER EMILIO ISGRO' ESKER FOUNDATION ETTORE SPALLETTI EVA HESSE EVA PRESENHUBER FANG LIJUN FAUSTO MELOTTI FELIX GONZALES-TORRES FILIPPO SCIASCIA FONDATION BEYELER FONDATION CARTIER FONDAZIONE MERZ FRANCESCO BONAMI FRANCESCO POLI FRANCESCO VEZZOLI FRANCIS BACON FRANKFURT FRANZ KLINE FRIEDMAN GABRIEL OROZCO GABRIEL YARED GAM GARY ROUGH GEORGE BURGES MILLER GEORGE HENRY LONGLY GERHARD RICHTER GILBERT & GEORGE GIULIO PAOLINI GLADSTONE GALLERY GREENE NAFTALI GUENZANI GUGGENHEIM GUGGENHEIM BERLIN GUGGENHEIM BILBAO GUILLAUME LEBLON HAMBURG HAMBURGER BAHNHOF HAMISH FULTON HANGAR BICOCCA HAUSDERKUNST HAUSER & WIRTH HE XIANGYU HELENA ALMEIDA HEMA UPADHYAY HENRY MOORE HIROSHI SUGIMOTO HOWIE TSUI HUANG YONG PING IAN BREAKWELL ICA ICHWAN NOOR INSTALLATION INTERVIEW ISABELLA BORTOLOZZI ISTAMBUL JAMES LAVADOUR'S ROSE JAMES MELINAT JAMIE XX JANET CARDIFF JANNIS KOUNELLIS JASSIE BOSWELL JEFF KOONS JEPPE HEIN JESSICA WARBOYS JIVYA SOMA MASHE JOAN FONTCUBERTA JOHN BALDESSARRI JOHN MCCRACKEN JOHN STEZAKER JON RAFMAN JORG SASSE JOSEPH KOSUTH JOTA CASTRO JURGEN TELLER KARA TANAKA KARL ANDERSSON KARLSRUHE KAVIN APPEL KONRAD LUEG KUNSTHAUS KUNSTMUSEUM LARRY BELL LIA RUMMA LISSON GALLERY LIU YE LONDON LOUISE BOURGEOIS LUC TUYMANS LUCIAN FREUD LUCIE STAHL LUIGI MAINOLFI LUISA RABBIA MADRE MAM PARIS MARC QUINN MARCO CASSANI MARIA CRISTINA MUNDICI MARIAN GOODMAN MARINA ABRAMOVIC MARIO MERZ MARK LECKEY MARK ROTHKO MARTIN KIPPENBERGER MARTIN McGEOWN MARZIA MIGLIORA MASSIMO DE CARLO MATTHEW BARNEY MAURIZIO CATTELAN MAX SCHAFFER MAXXI MIAMI MIKE PARR MILAN MIMMO ROTELLA MING WONG MOMA MONTREAL MOUSSE MUMBAI MUYBRIDGE NATIONAL GALLERY NEW YORK NICO MUHLY NOBUYOSHI ARAKI NOTTINGHAM CONTEMPORARY NY OFCA INTERNATIONAL OLAFUR ELIASSON OSCAR MURILLO OTTO PIENE PACE GALLERY PAOLA PIVI PAOLO CURTONI PARIS PAUL MCCARTHY PERFORMANCE PHILIP GLASS PHILIP-LORCA DICORCIA PHILIPPE PERRENO PHILLIPS DE PURY PHOTOGRAPHY PIA STADTBAUMER PIPILOTTI RIST PORTRAITS PRISCILLA TEA RAPHAEL HEFTI REBECCA HORN RICHARD LONG RICHARD SERRA RICHARD T. WALKER RICHARD TUTTLE RINEKE DIJKSTR ROBERT MORRIS ROBERT SMITHSON ROBERT SMITHSON'S ROBIN RHODE ROMA RON MUECK RUDOLF HERZ RUDOLF STIEGEL RUDOLF STINGEL SAM FRANCIS SANTIAGO SERRA SARAH SUZUKI SCULPTURE SHARJAH BIENNAL SHIGERU TAKATO SIMON THOMPSON SOL LEWITT SOPHIE CALLE SPY STEDELIJK MUSEUM STEPHAN BELKENHOL STEVE MCQUEEN STEVE REINKE SUBODH GUPTA SUSAN PHILIPSZ TALA MADANI TATE BRITAIN TATE BRITIAN TATE MODERN TERESA MARGOLLES THADDAEUS ROPAC THE RENAISSENCE SOCIETY THOMAS EGGERER THOMAS HIRSCHHORN THOMAS RUFF THOMAS SARACENO THOMAS STRUTH TIM FAIN TOBIAS ZIELONY TOM FRIEDMAN TONY COKES TONY CONRAD TONY CRAGG TOO MUCH TOTAH TOZER PAK TURIN TURNER PRIZE UGO RONDINONE UK ULAY VANESSA BEECROFT VENICE BIENNALE VERA LUTTER VICTOR MOSCOSO VICTORIA MIRO VIENNA VIK MUNIZ VOID SERIES WHITE CUBE WHITECHAPEL GALLERY WIELS WILLIAMS PRESENHUBER WU TSANG YAN PEI-MING YANG YONGLIANG YOHJI YAMAMOTO YOKO ONO YUSUKE BENDAI YVES KLEIN ZHANG DAQIAN ZURICH
How the curator went from a quiet existence in a small German industrial town
to become one of the most important figures in the art world.
She is applauded for her keen ability to recognize some of the rising stars in the contemporary art world, as well as nurturing existing relationships with many of the biggest names.
“Where Ruf goes, others follow.” That’s what ArtReview Magazine wrote in naming her the most influential person in the art world, ahead of celebrated artists, curators, museum and foundation directors, gallerists, and collectors including Tate Modern’s Nicholas Serota, Glenn D. Lowry of MoMA, and Hans-Ulrich Obrist of London’s Serpentine Gallery.
Under Ruf’s leadership, the Kunsthalle Zurich, (kunsthalle literally means “art hall” in German, and is distinguished for not being a collecting institution) officially reopened in the former Lowenbrau brewery last August after a remodel that took more than 10 years to complete.
The newly renovated space debuted with shows by acclaimed German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans (New World), and 27- year-old British artist, Helen Marten (No borders in a wok that can’t be crossed). Marten’s provocative exhibition which originated at the Kunsthalle Zurich, was presented at the galleries of Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies in New York State. Ruf helped organize and install the exhibition, which is Marten’s inaugural show in the United States. Although Ruf is credited for having “discovered” Marten, Ruf sees it differently and is quick to reject the accolades. “ I don’t believe in the discovery thing. It’s a shared moment and it’s great when it develops into an energy.”
Ruf has joined forces with many other well-known contemporary artists including John Armleder, Kai Althoff, Jenny Holzer and Marina Abramovic. She has loved working on co-creations with Philippe Parreno (No Ghost just a Shell) and together with New York-based artists Kelley Walker, Seth Price, Wade Guyton and Josh Smith, Ruf developed a long planned show in the Kunsthalle space in just 10 days.
Delighting in the continuous exchange with contemporary artists, Ruf firmly believes that institutions like the Kunsthalle Zurich need to exist without a collection. “When you take out a collection you have to prescribe to other processes and you can’t perform that flexibility which is extremely important to have in the contemporary art world,” she says.
Ruf explains that it wasn’t until the early 1980s kunsthalles in cities were set up to encourage a place where younger artists and contemporary artists could show their work. The Kunsthalle Zurich Association was established in 1985, with the plan of having a venue in Zurich that would host temporary exhibitions and educational events focused on international contemporary art. In 1996, the Kunsthalle Zurich, moved into the Lowenbrau Art complex, which also hosts a combination of contemporary art galleries, private collections, and institutions all under one roof.
Shortly after Ruf took over in 2001 from the Kunsthalle Zurich’s first director, Dr. Bernhard Mendes Burgi, there was an international architecture competition to redesign the Lowenbrau Complex, including the Kunsthalle Zurich. Zurich architectural firms Gigon/Guyer and Aetlier WW were chosen to design this massive renovation. The expansion of the Kunsthalle Zurich is now a highly visible landmark with a large white cube of additional gallery space built on top of one of the existing heritage site buildings. The Kunsthalle Zurich presents approximately 6-8 different shows a year, which run for 11-12 weeks each.
In addition to her day job, Ruf is also the curator of the Ringier collection and on the board of the publishing house JRP/Ringier, and has written essays and published catalogues on numerous artists. She is a Board Member of the Schweizerische Graphische Gesselschart and of the Cultural Advisory board of CERN, Geneva. She co-created the 2008 Yokohama Trienniale in Japan, and in 2006 curated the Tate Triennial for Tate Britain. She has served as a jury member in many important commissions.
But what Ruf enjoys more than partnering with local cultural and educational institutions, or collaborating with leading international museums and galleries like Whitechapel Gallery in London, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, or the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, is the thrill of working closely with artists.
“Everything I get excited about comes from the artists. Their visions, their questions, their doubts and critiques, ” she says smiling.
Undeniably passionate and committed to creating dialogues with younger generations of artists, Ruf began an unlikely journey to becoming one of the most eminent figures in the contemporary art world. Born in 1960, in Singen, a small industrial conservative German town, Ruf calls her childhood , “the regular thing”. Her father was a politician, her mother a housewife, and Ruf was the middle in a family of three children.
Ruf’s world was transformed when a substitute art teacher in high school was assigned to her class for half of the school year. “ This teacher was hilarious, Ruf recalls, “she changed everything. She provided a glimpse into a contemporary life.” For the first time, Ruf began to consider the arts and the potential role it could play in her life.
After high school, Ruf moved to the Lake of Constance and was accepted into a conservatory in Vienna, the University of Vienna, and the University of Zurich. She studied museology and received a master’s degree in choreography and dance and a masters degree in philosophical studies. While at the conservatory, Ruf lived in a large communal house with visual artists and architects. This was a pivotal time in her life,sharing and exploring different ideas with her new peers.
“From the beginning, it was clear that I was not a classical dancer. I was always more interested in concepts of the 1960’s and 70’s and performance art. After 10 years in the choreography dance media world, it felt much clearer that curating was for me. It was natural for me to switch to the other side. I felt more at home.”
After the conservatory, Ruf started to organize regular exhibitions with a group of artists in the surrounding areas of Singen, and got to know the director of a county museum, Kunstmuseum des Kantons Thurgau at Kartause Ittingen(Museum of the County of Thurgau at Kartause Ittingen), housed in a former Carthusian cloister, on the other side of the Lake of Constance. At age 34, Ruf was offered her first job as curator there. She ended up staying until 1998.
It was a very positive experience for Ruf, a few years later she accepted a position as director/curator of the Kunsthaus Glarus, a modernist museum built in the 1950’s, with “zero” money, but with a beautiful collection.
Ruf recognizes that some of the biggest challenges that go along with her current job are the financial contraints (60 percent of the Kunsthalle’s budget is privately financed), but, at the same time she deeply appreciates how privileged she is to be able to work in an ever-changing environment.
“Institutions like Kunsthalle should do everything to keep their societal freedom. Nothing is more inspiring and exciting than to see institutions that are formed by the ideas of the artists.”
This past June marked the introduction of Reality Check, a new series of talks, lectures and encounters with the artists, critics, and curators at the Kunsthalle Zurich.
In August, six years after his first show, Wade Guyton returned to the Kunsthalle Zurich with a new show, and Lutz Bacher and Ed Atkins are slated for shows this winter and spring.
Ruf hopes that that the Kunsthalle Zurich “stays the same in that it keeps its freedom, its flexibility and its closeness to the artist.”.
But like her colleagues in the continuously evolving world of contemporary art, Ruf may at some point in the future consider working with a collecting institution. “ I do really believe that the museum is a great thing and a very important construct for the future in terms of the exchange between historical and contemporary knowledge. “
She takes a final drag on her cigarette and, through smoke, pronounces the old proverb “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”