Marc-Olivier Wahler is the current Director of MAH Museum of Art and History (Geneva, since 2019).
Marc-Olivier Wahler is the former Director of the MSU Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University (East Lansing, 2016-2019), former director of Palais de Tokyo (Paris, 2006-2012), former director of Swiss Institute (New York, 2000-2006), founding director of CAN (Neuchâtel, 1995-2000), founding editor of PALAIS / Magazine, and co-founder of the Tokyo Art Club (Paris).
Marc-Olivier Wahler is known for developing museums as “ecosystems” and is recognized for his entrepreneurial spirit: he founded three art centers, a magazine, a sculpture park, a televised educational series, a web radio, an art lab, and many other successful endeavors. His innovative fundraising approach mixes creativity and innovation and allows him to continuously identify new potential revenue sources: he set up a new economic model by creating art clubs for collectors, a temporary hotel, a bar, and two restaurants, all designed by artists. His managerial skills have been tested many times with success, especially when he initiated and supervised the extension of a vast architectural complex, worked on a new collective labor agreement, and proposed new strategic plans, while continuously advocating for innovation, diversities and minorities.
MSU BROAD ART MUSEUM
During his tenure as director of the MSU BROAD ART MUSEUM at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Marc-Olivier Wahler developed a distinguished exhibition program of solo and group presentations. He presented long-anticipated projects, such as retrospectives of Michel Parmentier, David Lamelas, as well as Jim Shaw and Mike Kelley; he organized the acclaimed group exhibition The Transported Man, where seminal artists such as Marcel Duchamp, René Magritte, Robert Gober, Anna Maria Maiolino, Charlotte Posenenske, and Paul Thek were in conversation with emerging artists, highlighting meaningful connections between historical and current art forms. He opened new exhibition spaces within the museum, focusing on renowned local artists, the upcoming generation, and “non-Western” artists alike.
With a pace of around 30 shows a year, Marc-Olivier Wahler presented the breadth of contemporary art production, from local to regional, national, and international. He initiated an artist residency and a virtual museum with star architect Philippe Rahm, and boosted the fundraising revenue and attendance. With his extensive professional network, he was able to secure distinguished and prominent grants, obtain exceptional loans from leading museums and collectors, and enhanced the collection by purchasing outstanding works, such as the famous Hidden World collection by the artist Jim Shaw, comprising more than 3’000 items.
His first year, he was able to secure a 1 million dollar grant for a new project: the Art Lab, a collaborative and community-oriented venue dedicated to the museum collection and a testing ground for innovative ideas and applied research in what define the museum of the future. Within the University, he was able to start an impressive array of collaborations between artists and researchers, started meaningful projects with the MSU different units, such as Lyman Briggs College of Science, the Planetarium, the African Studies Center, the Women of Color Initiatives, the College of Music, the Childhood Development Laboratories, College of Education, the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities, the LGBT Resource Center, the Agriculture, Physics, Philosophy, Engineering, Neurology, Entomology, Chemistry, and Biology Departments, among others. He initiated a new identity, brand and communication strategy plan for a collaborative, innovative and inclusive museum thought as a habitat, a gateway and a lab.
In 2012, he founded the CHALET SOCIETY in Paris, a community-oriented art center that quickly gained a national and international reputation for introducing the public to artist laboratories where scholarly work, popular notions, and mechanics could be tested and create a sustainable, relevant, and exciting path forward. The art center’s structure, thought as flexible and mobile, endeavors to develop formats that work on a variety of spaces, similar to open source software that can run on any hardware.
In Los Angeles, CHALET SOCIETY opened CHALET HOLLYWOOD in 2013 with Piero Golia and star architect Edwin Chan.
PALAIS DE TOKYO
From 2006-2012, Marc-Olivier Wahler was the director and chief curator of the PALAIS DE TOKYO, one of the most frequently visited contemporary art centers in Europe. As director, he consolidated Palais de Tokyo’s strategic, administrative, and artistic structures, increased the institution’s presence on both the national and international art scene, doubled its fundraising revenue, created a collective labor agreement, and oversaw a major expansion project launched in 2008 and concluded in 2012. Under his leadership, the art center developed a new economic model, including the artists’ projects of a rooftop hotel and restaurant, as well as the Tokyo Art Club where members sponsored the production of exhibited artworks.
As chief curator of the Palais de Tokyo, he set the current pace of 30 to 40 exhibitions a year. Established artists such as Charles Ray, Steven Parrino, Jeremy Deller, Jonathan Monk, Tatiana Trouvé, Ugo Rondinone, Adam McEwen, John Armleder, Urs Fischer, Jim Shaw, Cady Noland, Dieter Roth, and Roman Signer were consistently exhibited with young and emerging talents, as well as lesser-known or ‘forgotten’ artists (Charlotte Posenenske, Nancy Grossman, Hans Josephsohn, Paul Laffoley, and Joe Brainard for example), thus revealing meaningful connections between historic and current art forms. Artists such as Camille Henrot, Ulla von Brandenburg, Oscar Tuazon, Carol Bove, Hannah Rickards, Micol Assaël, Valentin Carron, Daniel Dewar & Gregory Gicquel, and Koki Tanaka were among the young talents to receive their first museum presentation in France.
As founder and editor-in-chief of the magazine Palais / and the art encyclopedia From Yodeling to Quantum Physics (5 volumes), he was able to implement his program with numerous groundbreaking pedagogical tools and research platforms.
As The New York Times stated in a review in 2011, « Under Mr. Wahler, the Palais de Tokyo has become one of the best springboards for artists. » His six-year program consisted of 19 sessions, 192 exhibitions, 653 exhibited artists, and 764 events. His international campaign and program innovations made Palais de Tokyo the “number one reason to come to France,” according to Wallpaper Magazine (2009) and “the coolest museum in Paris: risk-taking, roomy and a little rough around the edges, » according to T: New York Times Style Magazine (2009).
ART CRITIC AND FREELANCE CURATOR
As an art critic, Marc-Olivier Wahler regularly writes on contemporary art and its theoretical problematic in international magazines, academic books and exhibition catalogues. His conferences in Europe, Asia, Australia, North Africa, and North and South America primarily focus on the form of the exhibition, the program as a medium, the museum as an ecosystem and the ways we currently speak about art.
During the last twenty years, Marc-Olivier Wahler has organized over 400 exhibitions – principally as museum director / chief curator, but also as a free-lance curator – in Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Zurich, Marrakech, Madrid, Turin, Lisbon, Los Angeles, Istanbul, and Mexico.
After earning diplomas in philosophy and art history, Marc-Olivier Wahler began his career as a museum curator in 1992 at the FINE ARTS MUSEUM in Lausanne where he was in charge of exhibitions by such artists as Felix Vallotton, Christian Boltanski, and Bill Viola. He then moved to the MAMCO in Geneva, where he participated in the setting up and development of its collection. In 1995, he co-founded the CAN (Contemporary Art Center of Neuchâtel) and was its director until 2000, when he curated Transfert, a decennial art in public space exhibition in Biel, Switzerland. That same year, he became the director of the SWISS INSTITUTE in New York (2000-2006).
In 2011, he was decorated as a Chevalier in the French Republic’s Order of Arts and Letters. In 2013, Wahler was awarded the Swiss Grand Award for Art / Prix Meret Oppenheim Prize, Switzerland’s highest cultural award in the contemporary arts.
Marc-Olivier Wahler regularly participates in international juries, boards, and advisory committees