Views on contemporary art curating

Pick 'N Mix - November 2007

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Thursday, November 1. 2007 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
It's the first of the month again! Hard to believe it's November already. Time for the November edition of Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of bite-sized items that have captured my attention recently.
  • "CURATE OR DIE" is the title of a series of discussions at KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin.
    "The focus of classical museum work seems to have changed in the past fifteen years. The balance of exhibiting, collecting, researching, and conserving activities has shifted towards a marked concentration on exhibiting. Both the public eye and possible sponsors tend to privilege the spectacular potential inherent in exhibitions. In collaboration with the Berlin-based Bureau des Arts Plastiques, KW Institute for Contemporary Art is planning a series of panel debates addressing these and related questions. Curate or Die seems to be the only possible future perspective."
    The two remaining talks in the series are taking place November 29 and December 10 at K-W.

  • A recent article by the Washington Post asks the question: Is There a Future for Old-Fashioned Museums? It focuses primarily on the story of the "Newseum", a new museum being erected in downtown Washington, while a copy is simultaneously being "built" in the online platform of Second Life. It has not yet been decided if this virtual copy of the museum will go fully public, but if it does, it will allow a global audience to have some experience of the museum. The article explores the notions of emotional attachment and collective experience that we have when visiting physical museums, which pose a series of questions as to the similarities and differences to the way we share experiences online. As well, the article looks at the ways success is measured for museums and how this is changing.

    Maxwell L. Anderson, CEO of the Indianapolis Museum of Art says: "The root of the problem is that there is no longer an agreed-upon method of measuring achievement. Half a century ago, art museums were largely measured by a yardstick comparable to that applied to libraries of the time: the size and importance of their collections." But today, he argued, art museums increasingly "are to their detriment places that privilege entertainment over learning."

    This year, in the journal Curator, he argued, "The message has been conspicuously entrepreneurial: we can be compared with theme parks, so we matter."

    He calls for measures of success that focus on the visitor's experience of the "resonance and wonder" of artworks -- "an intangible sense of elation -- a feeling that a weight was lifted."

    Anderson's words remind us that while some of these buildings may be architectural or technological marvels, what really impacts audiences is personal and collective perceptions of the contents of museums - in other words, the fruits of labour by artists and curators.

  • An old webcast came to light via bellebyrd's blog: "Global Curating in the 21st Century" was a panel discussion held in 2003 at the Walker Art Center, as part of "How Latitudes Become Forms: Art in a Global Age".

    "Five visual arts curators discuss art in a global context. Participants are: Kathy Halbreich, Director, Walker Art Center; Vishakha Desai, Senior Vice President/Director, Galleries and Cultural Programs, The Asia Society; Hou Hanru, Paris-based, independent curator-critic; Paulo Herkenhoff, independent curator and critic (Sao Paulo); and Latitudes exhibition curator Philippe Vergne."

    You can access the stream of the panel discussion by clicking here.

  • File under slightly unusual curatorial careers: being a curator of a hotel's art collection. Jennifer Phelps is the curator at the Chambers, a luxury hotel in downtown Minneapolis, USA.

    "My first job was to catalog everything and use the floor plans to place it in the rooms," Phelps said. "That was fun, like a puzzle, because there are 60 rooms, and each got two or three pieces, depending on whether it was a suite or a single. "

    One recent addition is a bronze sculpture by British artist Gavin Turk. It sits in a hallway near the hotel's banquet rooms and looks like a pile of black plastic garbage bags stuffed to overflowing with trash. It's Phelps' job to tamp down the ire of outraged hotel guests who stumble upon it en route to a soiree.

    "They call up, furious, because they're having a party and what are we doing with garbage bags dumped in the hallway?" she said. "When I tell them it's art, they burst out laughing."

A lighthearted note to end this month's Pick 'N Mix on, I'm sure you'll agree!
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