Stephane Ackermann (1969–2022)

January 21st, 2022

Independent curator and art historian Stephane Ackermann, whose keen eye for ingenuity and brilliance in art, design, fashion, textiles allowed him to help numerous artists reach their potential, died in his sleep on January 18 in Istanbul, where he lived. The news was confirmed by Mari Spirito, executive director and curator of Turkish nonprofit Protocinema, on whose advisory board Ackermann served. In the course of a career spanning three decades, Ackermann stood out for his deep knowledge regarding modern and contemporary art of Europe, the United States, and the Middle East. As a respected curator and trusted advisor to collectors, he was integral to creative life in the Istanbul art community.

Ackermann was born in 1969 in France, where he became interested in art from a young age. After graduating from the prestigious Paris-Sorbonne University in 1991 he began his professional life at Yvon Lambert Gallery, also in Paris. During the four years he spent there, he became close with Lambert, whom he would count as a close friend and mentor for the rest of his life. He also struck up lasting friendships with a number of artists during this period, among them Christian Boltanski, Nan Goldin, and Annette Messager. In 1995, Ackermann was appointed curator at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; he held this position until 1998, when he departed for Luxembourg, where he founded the Stephane Ackermann Agency, devoted to assisting artists in presenting and realizing site-specific installations. Ackermann was instrumental in the 2006 founding of MUDAM, The Contemporary Art Museum of Luxembourg.

In 2008, Ackermann moved to Turkey, where he served as artistic director of the Istanbul-based Contemporary Istanbul and Art International art fairs, organizing projects by Gülsün Karamustafa, Hera Büyüktaşçıyan, Paolo Chiasera, and Ahmet Öğüt, among others. He joined Protocinema’s advisory committee in 2012 and in 2016 cofounded the fashion label Köksal Atay with his partner, Atay. The day before he died, Ackermann posted to his Instagram a photo of René Magritte’s 1937 Le principe due plaisir, showing a man’s head replaced with an incandescent blur of light. Lamented one commenter: “Even your last post is perfectly curated.”