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Every curator's nightmare?

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, August 29. 2006 • Category: Musings

Perhaps it is every curator's nightmare - the gallery closes your show less than 24 hours after it opens.

The Gene Culture exhibition at Egg Space Gallery in Liverpool opened on August 9. The show is part of a broader research project by curator Gaynor Evelyn Sweeney, analysing perceptions of genetics in postmodern society. The Gene Culture exhibition contained a range of work in a variety of media, from photographs to animal parts. The show was closed down because of apparent concerns over a vegetarian restaurant being in the same building as the gallery (in case the animal parts escape?), and a skirmish over a performance at the opening event.

Ms Sweeney, a performance artist and graduate of Liverpool John Moores University, said she was disappointed with the decision.

"We had selected 10 international artists from 250 submissions and the standard of art was very high."

Artist Carrie Reichardt had her performance art piece, Pinky and Perky, banned on opening night. She was due to have worn pigs' heads in place of a bra.


Read the news article here.

Of course, this could be viewed as a blessing or a curse. The show will possibly live on and travel to other locations, and if the truism "there's no such thing as bad press" is to be believed, then one could conclude it's hard to buy the kind of press that a show being censored brings on.

The overreaction on the part of the controlling interests in the Gene Cultures case reminds me of the case from a few years ago of the Terminal 5 exhibition, curated by Rachel K. Ward, that also barely got past the vernissage.

Once again, nervous figures of authority (in this case, a sponsor of the exhibition, Jet Blue Airlines) objected to a work by Vanessa Beecroft featuring nearly naked black women with chains around their feet. Obviously a striking image, and a political statement that the sponsors balked at. Once again, an opening night party went terribly awry, this time simply because of raucous behaviour, resulting in puddles of puke and vandalised walls in the pristine terminal by Eero Saarinen at JFK airport. This was about as much as the New York Port Authority could take, and so they shut the show down. (You can read more about the show and its closure here).

However, Ms Ward is obviously a very smart cookie, and after working very hard to produce what appears to be a very interesting and tight exhibition, she managed to still generate press (and perhaps the show became even more "hooky" after being shut down by the Port Authority) and also seems to have spun off the exhibition into a derivative show, Terminal 5: Now Closed, in Paris.

I'm interested to see how Ms Sweeney makes lemonade out of the lemon of a situation she is currently in.


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  1. Read your article. Very interesting and exceptional analysis. You enquired to know how I handle this problem, the answer is simple and what I immediately commenced in preparation for on the closure of the previous show and that is open it again. This time in another gallery called 'The Slaughterhouse' in Liverpool, which will be part of the Independents Liverpool Biennial 2006. The name of the gallery is accidental, but rather there is a little bit of irony and paradox in this.
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  2. I can vouch the dedication of Gaynor. She has given many opportunities, including myself to work along side to help my research in my practice.

    This is a woman and artist with so much vision, passion and conviction to her art and humanity, she is working head long, although she is severly ill at the moment.

    I thank her for her support that I have been given and others similar over the years she has been doing art and curating.
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  3. Absolutely! As her sister and co-artist to several of the projects she has done. She is one on her own and from nothing makes new and wonderful creatives experiences to evolve.
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