Curator Frank Wagner, Key Figure for Berlin Artists, Is Dead at 58

He was a true visionary and a mentor for many.

Frank Wagner with AA Bronson at an opening in Berlin in 2015. Photo via Facebook.

German curator Frank Wagner passed away on Wednesday, June 1, at the age of 58. Wagner was an independent curator and a tireless supporter of young artists working in Berlin.

As a regular exhibition organizer for Berlin’s Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst (NGBK), he presented works stemming from artistic practices governed by strong political or social agendas.

Throughout his long career, he was often the first to exhibit artists in Berlin before their international breakthrough, including Cady Noland, Barbara Kruger, Marlene Dumas, Stan Douglas, Jeff Wall, Sanja Iveković, Hannah Wilke, Robert Gober, and Wolfgang Tillmans.

Wagner was a member of the NGBK for over 40 years, an institution which stages exhibitions by local artists selected for the senate’s stipend program. He thus became a mentor to many artists in the early stages of their career.

“I was interested in collective interactions and social conflicts,” he once said of his approach to exhibition making, a conceit which was also prevalent in his work as independent curator. 

Wagner was one of the first curators to address the topic of AIDS with a group exhibition in 1988. Five years later, for a show at KW Berlin dealing with sexual rebellion and resistance, Wagner created a memorial room for his friend David Wojnarowicz.

In 2006, a decade after the passing of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Wagner organized his retrospective at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof museum.

In 2013, he organized a retrospective show about AIDS activism since the mid-eighties at the NGBK. Most recently, and despite already being weakened by cancer, Wagner curated the German pavilion of the Dubai Photo Exhibition, which opened this past March.  

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