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About Cathrin Pichler

As a curator, writer and visionary, and not exclusively as a public person, Cathrin Pichler has made her mark over decades in dialogs, seminars, conferences, and conversations. They exhibit a diversity of speech, the essence of which—spoken or unspoken—was to find out what it means to take a stand. The surprising thing about Cathrin Pichler was that, despite having been designated the Grande Dame of the art world fairly early on and despite the standards she set herself to be a critical intellectual, her work and her character never lost their sensibility. She always elevated emotional complexity to the highest level and lived it wholeheartedly. If one were to equate emotion with movement or animation and lack of emotion with motionlessness, one thing becomes clear: Cathrin Pichler was never motionless. Her life consisted of reading, traveling, watching, thinking, and, first and foremost, acting. Virtually nothing escaped her intellectual alertness. Her attention was limitless, both in terms of listening and devotion. Her greatest asset was the humanity with which she celebrated art. And it was art—fragile, questionable, inquisitive in character—to which she was completely devoted. Always interested in risk-takers and border-crossers, partly because she was one of them, she writes about the potential of the threshold: “The threshold is something imprecise and ambiguous.” Something like a transition, a moment of change, a kind of gap in a movement, an intake of breath between two conditions. Cathrin Pichler ascribes the impossibility of her oppositional essence to inscribe itself entirely in a regime of reason to the arts and to the modern soul: “Art has a strange relationship to the soul, not only through the imagination, which is arguably an attribute of both, but, fundamentally and more prominently, through a peculiar exterritoriality that is characteristic of both. Neither art nor its patron, the soul, can be conclusively defined […], the soul has no determined location, it is a no man’s land, an intermediate realm that can only be perceived when it appears at a different location.” For Cathrin Pichler, therefore, the figure of the angel serves as a necessary foil for transgressing and breaking out of the constrictions of reality, and she concludes that “angels—fallen from heaven— appear as connotations of a poetry of transgression; as a second sight. They announce the contingency of modern humans and accompany their odysseys through life.” Cathrin Pichler uses angels to describe the Other, the foreign and ominous within humans themselves: “Even in its diminutive form, little angel, the figure of the angel signals the transgression; the angel is the alienated, nonconformist, ostracized, rebellious, anarchistic Other […], he is possibility, he even inspires a sense of what is possible, the flights of fancy, the imagination, and he feeds the desire for knowledge.” Cathrin Pichler was an indefatigable representative and performer of this “modern angel,” a “crystallization of the humanly possible beyond the dictates of rationality,” creator, performer, and representative, tireless translator of aesthetic, philosophical, and political possibilities.


Cathrin Pichler was born in 1946 in Gmunden, Upper Austria. She studied journalism, art history, sociology and psychology as well as communication theory and information aesthetics. From 1977 to 1982 she was working as a project manager at the Institute of Conflict Research in Vienna. Afterwards she worked as a freelancer at that Institute until 1985. During this time she also worked at the Institute of Demography of theAustrian Academy of Sciences. From 1992 to 1994 she was the first federal art curator together with Robert Fleck. In 1995 she was appointed chief curator of the Kunsthalle Wien, but gave up this post after two years and remained a freelance curator and lecturer at several universities. Cathrin Pichler died in Vienna on June 29, 2012 after a serious illness. In March 2012 the art educator and curator was awarded the Cross of Honour for Science and Art 1st Class.

Exhibition and Publications (Selection)

Wunderblock. Eine Geschichte der Modernen Seele
Messepalast (MQ), 1989

Catalogue: Wunderblock. Eine Geschichte der modernen Seele. Wiener Festwochen (Ed.), Löcker Verlag, 1989.

Engel, Engel: Legenden der Gegenwart
Kunsthalle Wien, 1997

Catalogue: Engel :Engel: Legenden der Gegenwart. Pichler, Cathrin (Ed.), Springer, Vienna / New York, 1997.

Crossings – Kunst zum Hören und Sehen
Kunsthalle Wien, 1998

Catalogue with Audio CD: Crossings – Kunst zum Hören und Sehen. Pichler, Cathrin (Ed.), Springer, Vienna / New York, 1998.

Antonin Artaud
mumok, 2002

Publication: Antonin Artaud. Zur Ausstellung im Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien. Matthes & Seitz, Munich, 2002.

For this exhibition, Cathrin Pichler assembled the most complex collection of materials by and about Antonin Artaud to date.

Trans Act. Interventionen zur Lage in Österreich
museum in progress, Vienna, 2010

Publication: TransAct: Transnational Activities in the Cultural Field / Interventionen zur Lage in Österreich museum in progress. Pichler, Cathrin (Ed.)/ Berka, Roman (Ed.), Edition Transfer, Springer, Vienna / New York, 2010.

The Moderns - Revolutions in Art and Science 1890-1935
mumok, 2010

Publication, published posthumously: The Moderns - Revolutions in Art and Science 1890-1935. Pichler, Cathrin, Neuburger, Susanne (Eg.), Edition Transfer, Springer, Vienna / New York, 2012.

The Moderns - Revolutions in Art and Science 1890-1935 was Pichler's last exhibition in autumn 2010 at the Museum Moderner Kunst Wien.