Nicolaus Schafhausen has been artistic director of the Kunsthalle Wien since June 2012. From 2006 to 2011 he was artistic and commercial director of Witte de With, Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, Netherlands. In June 2005 he was appointed founding director of the European Kunsthalle in Cologne – a project initiated to sound out a model for a potential institution for contemporary art – for a period of two years. He has been commissioned to curate the German pavilion for the 52nd and 53d Biennial in Venice in 2007 and 2009.
Born in Düsseldorf in 1965, Nicolaus Schafhausen studied art history at the Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin) and the Ludwig-Maximillian-Universität in Munich. During a scholarship at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin he decided to found the Galerie Lukas & Hoffmann together with the artist Markus Schneider. They named the gallery after the birth names of their mothers. In the gallery, initially located in Berlin and now based in Cologne, Schafhausen has curated several exhibitions, including the first exhibitions of artists that are now internationally successful, such as Kai Althoff, Olafur Eliasson, Carsten Höller and Antje Majewski.
From 1995 to 1998, Schafhausen was artistic director of Künstlerhaus Stuttgart. With the "Umbauraum" (conversion room), he initiated a form of mediation that served as a role model for similar institutions in the nineties. In exhibitions at the Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, he presented, among others, Kai Althoff, Cosima von Bonin, Olafur Eliasson, Liam Gillick, Sharon Lockhart and Stephen Prina. In 1999 Schafhausen was appointed director of the Frankfurter Kunstverein, and remained artistic and commercial director until December 2005. The Frankfurter Kunstverein was repositioned on a national and international level under his directorship; new methods of communication were attempted as well as a definition of a new way of entering into dialogue with the visitors. The programmatic highlights included exhibitions, initiated by Schafhausen, on the theme of current social questions, including local aspects ("To the people of the city of the Euro"), the theme of migration, "Man muss ganz schön viel lernen um hier zu funktionieren” (‘One must learn a great deal to be able to function here’) and a trilogy on the elusive phenomenon of globalisation, "Neue Welt", "New Heimat", "non-places". Exhibitions such as the overview show on German painting "deutschemalereizweitausenddrei" (2003) served the tastes of the masses. The exhibition on the occasion of the 100th birthday of Theodor W. Adornos "Adorno - die Möglichkeit des Unmöglichen" was a manifestation of Schafhausen’s approach aimed at provoking discourse.
Nicolaus Schafhausen is a member of several different private and public juries and advisory bodies. From 2003 to 2005 he was a member of the board of executives of the IKT (International Association of Curators). He is publisher and co-publisher of numerous publications on contemporary art. In 2003, he was awarded with the Hessische Staatspreis für Kultur (State award for culture, Hesse).