Biography Beatrix Ruf

Photo: Robin de Puy
Photo: Robin de Puy

Beatrix Ruf (Singen, Germany, 1960) has a rich and diverse career in the international art world. After completing studies in Psychology, Ethnology and Art and Cultural Sciences at the University of Zürich followed by studying at the Conservatory of Vienna, Ruf worked as a freelance curator, choreographer and critic. She served as Curator at Kunstmuseum Thurgau, Warth from 1994-1998, and was Director of Kunsthaus Glarus, Glarus from 1998-2001.

In 2001, Beatrix Ruf was appointed Director of Kunsthalle Zürich, overseeing a substantial expansion project launched in 2003 and concluded in 2012. She developed an internationally renowned exhibition program of solo presentations and group exhibitions. Wilhelm Sasnal, Keren Cytter, Trisha Donnelly, Wade Guyton and Seth Price were among the young talents to receive their first museum presentation there. Ruf does not shy away from the experimental, which is clear from the countless new productions that were realized during her directorate: John Miller, Richard Prince, Heimo Zobernig, Isa Genzken, Sarah Lucas and Rosemarie Trockel among many others produced ambitious installations especially for Kunsthalle Zürich.

In Zürich, Ruf also initiated projects of art-historical relevance, including long-anticipated survey exhibitions of, among others, Yang Fudong and Ian Wallace. She also presented the artistic positions of many significant, yet lesser-known or ‘forgotten’ artists; often those of an older or past generation (Lutz Bacher, Bruce Connor). By presenting their work generously and at the right moment, Ruf gave them a well-deserved place in the canon, thus correcting art history, revealing meaningful connections between historic and current art forms. Ruf collaborated with many established Swiss artists such as Fischli & Weiss, Olivier Mosset, Ugo Rondinone, and gave many of them their first institutional presence, like Urs Fischer, Valentin Carron and Tobias Madison. This is a practice she prominently followed in her programming at large, also with ‘non-Western’ artists like Christodoulos Panayitou, Alejandro Cesarco or Yüksel Arslan. During her tenure in Zürich, Ruf presented art production in the broadest sense, from local to regional, national and international. Together with a wide range of publishing houses, among them JRP│Ringier (a Swiss publishing house for art she co-initiated), Ruf produced a range of extremely important publications. Her articles and essays on the work of emerging artists are invaluable in providing insight and context for developing oeuvres. Ruf also edited influential art historical publications including “Mark Morrisroe”, “Isa Genzken-Werkverzeichnis Bd. II: 1992-2003”, the catalogue raisonée of Sarah Lucas or “Yang Fudong: Estranged Paradise. Works 1993–2013”. Many artists worked with Ruf to produce notable artist books, including John Armleder, About Nothing, and “I love New York, Crazy City” by Isa Genzken.

Ruf embeds her projects within a network of prominent international institutions incluemding the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Tate Liverpool, the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, Witte de With in Rotterdam, Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Berkeley Art Museum in San Francisco and Moderna Museet in Stockholm. In addition to her directorship in Zürich, Ruf has also been involved with numerous prestigious international biennials and triennials.

In 2006, Ruf was the Curator of the successful third edition of the Tate Triennial in London, in 2008 Co-Curator of the Yokohama Triennial and, since 2010, as a member of the think tank core group of the LUMA foundation, co-organizes projects and group exhibitions in Arles. Ruf has a remarkably extensive, close-knit network that spans continents, disciplines and generations. Her faultless eye for young talent and infallible radar for the ‘zeitgeist’ make her an in-demand jury member and expert for public and independent collections. For over a decade, as art expert to the Zürich-based collection of the Ringier AG, Ruf has been instrumental in developing one of Switzerland’s most important contemporary art collections. Currently, Ruf is a member of the Cultural Advisory Board of CERN, a Board Member of the MUMOK in Vienna and a Member of the art commission to the Swiss re-insurance Swiss Re. In 2013, Ruf acted as juror for the Absolut Art Award, and co-founded POOL in Zürich, a new institution and programme drawing on a ‘pool’ of works from private collections in order to develop and encourage emerging curatorial talent through stipends and exhibition productions. Ruf also is a mentor for both the University of St. Gallen and the University of the Arts in Zürich. Over the last 15 years, Ruf has become widely acknowledged as one of the most influential figures in the international art world. The American journal Art Review has named her as one of the top-ranking art professionals in its ‘Power Top 100’ for several years; in 2013, she was ranked number 7.

Ruf has a clear and inspiring vision of art – including art collecting and preservation – artists, and the role that both play in society. She has an exceptional talent for communicating her vision to diverse audiences with great clarity and without compromising the complexity of the material and is aware of the importance of education. This, coupled with her engaging and open way of communicating, makes her a sought-after speaker, educator and influential figure in the world of contemporary art.

Ruf’s art-theoretical program is distinctive, radical and self-assured. At the Kunsthalle Zürich, she demonstrated her ability to translate her enthusiasm and bold vision into a shared responsibility, making her staff ‘co-own’ her goals and ambitions. Under her 13-year directorate, Kunsthalle Zürich metamorphosed into one of the world’s most eminent art institutions. Ruf’s transformation of the Kunsthalle Zürich and the development of the Löwenbräu Art Center, where it is now located permanently, was essential to the development of the city of Zürich into an internationally-renowned locus of contemporary art; resulting in numerous and, in some cases, substantial sponsorship deals. Ruf also managed Kunsthalle Zürich’s sizeable renovation project which was brought to fruition within the budgetary parameters.

During her directorate Ruf expanded the Kunsthalle, and streamlined the organizational and financial structures of what is known as the Löwenbräu Art Centre (a cluster of public and private institutions housed in industrial buildings on what is now a heritage site). Thanks to Ruf’s radical vision and tenacity, the Kunsthalle Zürich has become a hub placing it at the very heart of the city, its diversity of institutions, its universities, its many affluent collectors, sponsors and influential galleries, and its local and international artists.