Obituary of Achim Borchardt-Hume | Tate Modern


Visitors to Tate Modern were captivated in equal measure by Anicka Yi’s translucent “aerobic” machines, floating in the immense Turbine Hall, and by the exquisite plaster casts of Rodin’s arms, legs and bodies. exhibited in the galleries upstairs.

Curator Achim Borchardt-Hume, who died at the age of 56, worked on these two recent projects in his role as Director of Exhibitions and Programs at Tate Modern, demonstrating his ability to curate exhibitions that featured both exciting contemporary artists to the general public and illuminated the lives and works of key historical figures.

Achim was motivated by the idea that through exhibitions it should be possible to get closer to the subject “as a living artist who breathes, [a] To be human. With all that it means… ambition, doubts, happiness, sadness. The Rodin exhibition is emblematic of this experiential approach: rather than presenting the sculptor’s greatest successes, he chooses the medium of plaster to introduce us to an artist whose work we thought we knew.

A scholar of art history as well as a museum professional, Achim has presented ambitious exhibitions (notably reinterpreting the great modernists) always focused on the desire to tell a story clearly presented to the widest possible audience. Picasso 1932: Love, glory, tragedy, co-curated by Nancy Ireson in 2018, took the radical but straightforward idea of ​​exploring a single pivotal year, when Picasso turned 50 and produced an extraordinary number of key paintings. The concise month-to-month narrative of the exhibition, combined with rich archival material, created an experience that was arguably Achim’s greatest critical success. It also attracted over 520,000 people, making it the Tate’s second most visited exhibit.

Achim was born in Düren, Germany, to Günter Borchardt and Anna Maria Struck. After completing an exchange scholarship at the Università La Sapienza in Rome, in 1990, he obtained a master’s degree in art history, Italian literature, psychology and Christian archeology at the University of Bonn. In 1992 he moved to the UK to undertake a doctorate at the University of Essex, his thesis focusing on the art and politics of fascist Italy.

Rather than presenting the “greatest hits” of the recent Rodin exhibition at the Tate Modern, Borchardt-Hume chose the medium of plaster to introduce us to an artist whose work we thought we knew. Photograph: Guy Bell / Rex / Shutterstock

Achim began his career in the public arts sector as an exhibition organizer at the Serpentine Gallery, London (1999-2005). After a brief period at the Barbican Art Gallery, he joined the Tate as Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art in 2005, and over the next four years he organized several large-scale exhibitions at the Tate Modern. , notably Albers and Moholy-Nagy (2006) and Rothko: The Late Series (2008), as well as the technically difficult installation of Doris Salcedo, Shibboleth (2007), which required specialized engineering to construct a crack 167 meters of long in the floor of the Turbine Hall.

The Rothko exhibition, the first in the UK devoted to the artist’s late abstract paintings, aimed to capture, as Achim described it, “the extraordinary existential effort” that underpins Rothko’s art. The highlight was reuniting for the first time since their creation of 16 Seagram murals, new from Tate’s collection with those on loan from the United States and Japan, seen alongside Rothko’s latest series, Black on Gray. , completed in the last year of his life.

In 2009 Achim moved to the Whitechapel Gallery as Chief Curator, where exhibitions included those by artists Walid Raad (2010), Guillaume Sasnal (2011), Thomas Struth (2011) and Zarina Bhimji (2012).

Achim returned to Tate Modern in 2012 as Exhibitions Manager, becoming its Exhibitions and Programs Director in 2017, working with Director, Frances Morris, to further shape the future of the museum, especially as it grew in size and ambition with the opening of its extension in 2016.

Malevich (co-organized by Iria Candela, 2014), introduced new research into the artist’s confrontation with the Stalinist regime as well as revealing the extent of his influence on contemporary artists, while Robert’s comprehensive investigation Rauschenberg (co-curated by Catherine Wood, 2016) recounted how the artist’s passion for collaboration encompassed not only painting and printmaking, but also technology, set design and performance.

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust of Picasso 1932 - Love, Fame, Tragedy, which brought together more than 100 works by Pablo Picasso in a single year.
Nude, Green Leaves and Bust of Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy, which brought together more than 100 works by Pablo Picasso in a single year. Photograph: Guy Bell / Rex / Shutterstock

His belief in collective effort, his empathy and his sensitivity towards artists – historical and contemporary – were his hallmarks.

Behind the scenes, he supported artists working on their own exhibitions, such as Olafur Eliasson, Steve McQueen and Lubaina Himid, shaped the experimental performance art program. BMW Tate Live, chaired the steering group of the Hyundai Tate Research Center: transnational, who explores interconnected global art stories, and was the champion staff director of the BAME network.

Beyond Tate, he was a regular panelist and speaker, and a director of several organizations, including the independent community arts organization. PEER, in East London.

As I experienced while working with Achim at the Tate, he liked to challenge artistic orthodoxy. With charm and wit, he spoke in his accent with Rhine-German accents, he always took pleasure in persuading you to have a different point of view.

Achim is survived by his wife, Laura Hume, whom he married in 1995, their children, Saskia, Tom and Matti, and his sisters, Claudia and Rita.

Achim Borchardt-Hume, curator, born September 25, 1965; passed away on November 1, 2021


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