Dr Barbara Steiner is an art historian who works as a freelance curator, writer and publisher.
In 2014 Barbara Steiner launched the long-term project Friends and Accomplices at the Vienna Künstlerhaus, which looks at ways of approaching commodification processes from the perspective of art and asks how protagonists from the field of art can work in the commercial sphere without losing sight of community and public interests. In late 2013, as part of a curator-in-residence programme run by the Goethe-Institut Amsterdam and Castrum Peregrini, Steiner investigated trends that lead to a division between idealistic and commercial agendas, using contemporary graphic design as an example. In 2012 and 2013 she was the artistic director of the transnational project Europe (to the power of) n, an exhibition series initiated by the Goethe-Institut that took place in London, Minsk, Łódź, Istanbul, Oslo, Novi Sad, Brussels, San Sebastián, Beijing and Taipei. It set out to explore the possibilities of a collaborative project that not only examines artistic ideas about Europe but also considers the regulatory frameworks, contexts and conditions that determine such an undertaking.
From 2001 to 2011 Barbara Steiner was the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (GfZK) in Leipzig, where she curated solo shows by artists such as Jun Yang, Christine Hill, Deimantas Narcevicius and Atelier Le Balto, and co-curated numerous group shows including Performative Architecture, The future is not what it used to be and Shrinking Cities. During the 1990s, in her role as the director of the Kunstverein Ludwigsburg, and subsequently of the Kunstverein Wolfsburg, Steiner presented solo exhibitions by Liam Gillick, Angela Bulloch, Philippe Parreno, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Karen Kilimnik, among others. Parallel to her curatorial practice, Steiner held teaching posts at the University of Linz (1994–2000), Braunschweig University of Art (1999/2000), the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen (2000–2002 and 2004/2005) and the University of Applied Arts in Vienna (2007–2009).
In addition to monographs on artists such as Jorge Pardo, Christine Hill, Superflex, Liam Gillick and Josef Dabernig, Barbara Steiner has published a number of books on museum-related themes as well as on concepts of space; relations between architecture, design and art; the communication of art through architecture; the relationship between the public and the private or that between art and economics. These publications include Mögliche Museen (co-edited by Charles Esche), 2007; Negotiating Spaces (with as-if wienberlin), 2010; The Captured Museum, 2011; Scenarios about Europe, 2012, and The Europen-Book, 2013. Also in 2013, Steiner published a comprehensive book entitled Superkilen in collaboration with BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group, TOPOTEK 1 and Superflex, which illustrates a range of cultural perspectives with the example of a large-scale urban park project in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen. Steiner has collaborated directly with architects, designers and artists for many years. In cooperation with the architects from as-if berlinwien, for example, she oversaw the development of a new extension building for the Museum of Contemporary Art (GfZK) in Leipzig between 2002 and 2004, where artists and designers were also involved in planning and installing a café, garden, shop and hotel rooms on the premises.
Barbara Steiner studied art history at the University of Vienna and wrote her doctoral thesis on the Ideology of the White Cube.