Views on contemporary art curating

IKT Congress Report

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Sunday, August 3. 2008 • Category: Musings
IKT, the International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art, held its annual congress in Montreal from 22-26 May 2008.

More than 130 members attended this year's IKT Congress, the first Congress ever to be held outside Europe. The days were very full, and included visits to major museums and galleries including the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montreal (MACM), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Dazibao, Galerie UQAM, Oboro, Vox, Galerie Clark, Fonderie Darling, and the Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery. In each case, the director and/or curator of the institution was present to give us a personal introduction and tour. The mix of institutions provided a great overview of both the diversity of provision for artists and of the available exhibition spaces for curators in Montreal: artist-run centres, museums, studios, commercial galleries, university-affiliated galleries. The Congress also travelled to Quebec City, taking in the Manif d'Art, Musée National des Beaux-arts du Québec, and production centres housed at Méduse. Optional post-Congress activities included short visits to Ottawa and Toronto.

The event was hosted by Parachute, and Chantal Pontbriand and her team ensured that every detail of the visit was perfectly planned. Coaches were arranged to transport the delegates from place to place (which ensured we kept to our packed schedule), refreshments were delicious and abundant, and questions or requests were handled expertly. The hosts thoughtfully included a customized coach tour of the city that covered significant sites in Montreal such as the Expo '67 ruins on Ile Sainte-Hélène, the Habitat buildings, Mont-Royal, and more. When the tour stopped briefly near the summit of Mont-Royal, several curators took the opportunity to get an ice cream and enjoy the view, which was one of many lovely moments.

The timing of our visit was excellent, as it coincided with the inaugural Quebec Trienniale at the Musée d'Art Contemporain (which was a key feature on the schedule), and curators who could find a scant few minutes spare in the action-packed itinerary could also zip up to the Mile-End for the Ateliers Portes Ouvertes (APO) event. Timing was also perfect to sample some of the fruits of the labours of IKT candidates and members. The Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery was hosting Vincent Bonin's exhibition about artists as cultural workers entitled Documentary Protocols II, and also Conceptual Filiations, curated by Michèle Thériault. Louise Déry curated Phenomena at Galerie UQAM, and Marc Lanctôt was part of the team behind the Quebec Triennale at MACM. It was enormously satisfying to see and support the hard work of one's colleagues during the Congress.

Interaction between local artists and the visiting curators was incorporated as an integral part of the Congress. A magnificent evening meal at the Fonderie Darling evolved into a lovely party, and also provided ample opportunity for the IKT members and guests to visit the artists who work at the Fonderie in their studios. As well, curators were able to request meetings with local artists, which were arranged by the Parachute team. These intimate meetings, which consisted of a handful of curators and the artist, were a terrific way for the Congress attendees to delve a little deeper and learn more about specific artists that piqued their interest.

A conference on art and economy was led by Mirjam Westen and included contributions from Jo-Anne Kane, Nina Montmann and Louise Neri. This short conference addressed some of the salient issues involved in the intersection of the fine art world and commercial concerns. A heated question and answer period followed, and the presentations sparked conversations throughout the rest of the Congress.

At the General Assembly, the board presented the financial situation of the past year and decisions were made regarding future Congress locations. It was decided that Congress will be hosted in 2010 by Athens, and in 2011 by Luxembourg and Metz. At last year's Congress, it decided that the 2009 Congress will be held in Helsinki and Tallinn. The board also issued a general request to assist in gathering documentation and information about the early years of the IKT association with a view to creating an IKT archive. The board intends to develop the archive into a significant resource and research tool, documenting nearly forty years of history.

The hospitality and collegiality on offer at the 2008 IKT Congress was truly exemplar, and everyone very much looks forward to Helsinki and Tallinn in 2009. If you have materials to contribute to the IKT archive, particularly of the early years of the association, please get in touch with IKT through the "contact" page on their website.

Defined tags for this entry: ,