Olivier Berggruen

Olivier Berggruen

Art Historian


Born in Switzerland with dual US-German citizenship, Olivier Berggruen attended Ecole Alsacienne in Paris and graduated in 1982. He received his BA (History of Art) from Brown University and his MA (History of Art) from Courtauld Institute.

He was previously Junior Specialist at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art in London, 1987-89; Director, Artemis Fine Art, London 1989-1992; and Director and Co-Owner, Berggruen & Zevi, London 1992-1998. As an art historian, he has written on Cézanne, Picasso, Paul Klee, Cy Twombly, Adriana Varejao, and many others, mostly for international museum exhibitions. He has taught or lectured at the National Gallery, London; Sciences Po, Paris; the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; and the Frick Collection, New York. From 2001 to 2007, he served as Associate Curator at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. He has curated (or co-curated) international retrospectives of Francis Bacon and the tradition of painting, Matisse’s paper cut-outs (2003), Yves Klein (2005), and Picasso’s theater and ballet works (2006), all for Frankfurt Schirn Kunsthalle as well as for the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. He curated an Ed Ruscha show of works on paper (Ed Ruscha: The Drawn Word) at Windsor (Vero Beach, Florida) in 2004 and a Jean-Michel Basquiat retrospective at Palazzo Ruspoli in Rome in 2009. He curated a retrospective of Picasso and the Ballets Russes at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome in 2017.

He is a member of the board of the John Carter Brown Library in Providence, Rhode Island, the Museum Berggruen in Berlin, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Musée Picasso in Paris, and of the American Foundation for the Courtauld Institute of Art in New York.

In 1998, Olivier married Desiree Hayford-Welsing, a pediatric physician. For the past few years, Desiree chose to devote herself to raising their children, Tobias and Ana (now aged 20 and 12). Olivier and Desiree live in New York City.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.

RAVE (IRCAM 2021) https://github.com/acids-ircam/RAVE