Hans Haacke – Working conditions, the writings of Hans Haacke

I promised myself never to be dependent on the sale of my works to pay the rent.

In 1959, Hans Haacke – a student in the academy – was hired to assist with Documenta II, working as a guard, an art mover and even a docent leading tours through the galleries. Haacke cites the experience of working at Documenta II as fundamental to his understanding of the operative rules by which the art world functions. As he writes in the retrospective text “Lessons learned” from 2009 – found in Working conditions, the writings of Hans Haacke, MIT Press:

“The selection and, for that matter, the omission, of certain works from prestigious exhibitions are not the only factors that have consequences: how the works are presented, the attention they receive in the press, the business acumen of dealers and art advisers, and the critical and art historical discourse surrounding them, can determine the reception of artworks – and their market. Ignoring this inevitable aspect of exhibitions would yield a flawed comprehension of the dynamics of the art world; yet, to focus exclusively on the commodity status of artworks or on an artist’s celebrity rating among collectors, be that critically or in awe, would lead to an equally deficient understanding. After the loss of my innocence at Documenta II, I promised myself never to be dependent on the sale of my works to pay the rent.