Olaf Nicolai

Born (1962) in Haale/Saale, Germany. He lives and works in Berlin. He studied German Literature and Philology in Leipzig (Germany), Budapest (Hungary) and Vienna (Austria). In 1992 he completed his PhD on "The Vienna Group" (‘Die Wiener Gruppe"). Olaf Nicolai’s work is conceptual in nature and often characterized by (socio) political references, in which multiple antipodal aspects merge and overlap. Aspects such as the generation of public space or the question of politics are reflected in his work as well as the realm of aesthetics and the role of the observer, i.e. participant. Olaf Nicolai has been awarded several grants, including the grant of the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes at the Studies Centre for Art and Science in Venice (1993), the grant of Villa Massimo, Rome (1996), the P.S.1 Museum Grant, New York (1998), the Grant of the City of Paris (2007), and grant at the Villa Aurora, Los Angeles (2008). Recent solo exhibitions: Olaf Nicolai: Escalier du Chant, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2011); Faites le travail qu’accomplit le soleil, Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover (2010); MIRADOR, Kunstmuseum Thurgau, Kartause Ittingen (2009); Pour Finir Encore, Padiglione d´Arte Contemporanea, Ferrara (2008). He participated at the 7th Sharjah Biennal (2005), Biennale di Venezia (2005 and 2001) and Gwangju Biennale (2002).


Escalier du Chant is a project which follows and records current political events in the form of a musical chronicle for one year. For this performance series concept, Olaf Nicolai invited twelve contemporary composers to write songs about current political events which are performed once every month on the central staircase of the Pinakothek der Moderne, in Munich, throughout 2011. The project was initiated by the Pinakothek der Moderne and is curated by Bernhart Schwenk. The songs are performed by the Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart. Each song is documented in booklets which record the event and the composers’ statement in text and image.

The project is presented and documented in all the Thessaloniki Biennale venues, on invitation. The selection of the songs for the Biennale reflects a dialogue with the individual venues and concepts for the show.

In this sense, Escalier du Chant is continued as a new implementation with a documentary character in Thessaloniki. During the opening and at different times during the Biennale, a live performance of several songs is planned.

Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial), 2011 Biennale de Lyon