Michelle Kasprzak's views on contemporary art curating

Opportunity: Soliciting Unsolicited Proposals, apexart

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Thursday, January 15. 2009 • Category: Jobs & Opportunities
Soliciting unsolicited exhibition proposals

Continuing their annual Unsolicited Proposal Program, apexart is currently accepting 600-word, idea-based proposals for evaluation by an international panel of apexart associates (curators, artists, writers, philosophers). Submissions are reviewed independently, anonymously and without visual support material—they are evaluated solely on the strength of the idea. No mountain too high, no river too deep!

Previous curatorial experience is in no way required, and will not factor into the selection process.

The two proposals with the highest ratings will be presented at apexart in the 2009/10 season (September 2009 to August 2010). For those in or outside the field, this program is a unique opportunity to have a professionally mounted exhibition in New York City!

Applications are welcomed and encouraged from around the world. Visit the site for more info, guidelines, past winners, and to apply:

Proposals accepted online only from February 1 to 28, 2009.
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Opportunity: apexart - The Franchise

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, October 21. 2008 • Category: Jobs & Opportunities
apexart - The Franchise
Resolving another boundary between art and business

apexart wants to come to you. Any city, any town, anywhere in the world. apexart is franchising a one-time exhibition opportunity where apexart will come to your city and appoint you the director of your own temporary non-profit exhibition space. For a four-week exhibition in May, 2009, and in the months preceding, you will be the director and/or curator and/or staff of your own institution with a budget, a salary, and complete control.

apexart will provide up to $10,000 USD in funding and the guidance to make your curated exhibition happen. In addition, prior to your show, apexart will arrange to bring you to NYC for three days, all expenses paid, to visit apexart and meet the staff.

Submit up to a 250-word statement on why apexart should come to you. You may use your 250-word count in anyway you think best. You can emphasize the idea, the execution or the content. Decide on your own the best way to sway the judges. Applications will be accepted until midnight December 1, 2008 EST, from anyone, anywhere in the world. The results will be made public on or before January 10, 2009.

More information here.

Submit your application here.

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Pick 'N Mix - April 2008

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, April 1. 2008 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Here's the April '08 edition of Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of little news items in the realm of curating.

- The Whitney Biennial is generating the usual column inches. Of interest in the coverage of the Biennial is the ongoing commentary about the curators themselves, and their intentions. Jerry Saltz's recent column discusses the significance of their age: "I was thrilled that the Whitney was prepared to give itself over to young curators. [...] no sooner had Huldisch and Momin been named than Whitney director Adam Weinberg pulled back the reins, announcing that the two would be "overseen" by the museum’s chief curator, Donna De Salvo, and that they'd "work with" three older "advisers," Thelma Golden, Bill Horrigan and Linda Norden." A piece entitled "The Facebook Biennial" in NY Magazine, offers a detail-rich portrait of the two curators, from the ways their careers unfolded (apparently, Momin's highly planned, Huldisch's not as as much) to the technology in the room: "Momin pulls out an iPhone, Huldisch a battered Motorola".

- In a recent post on Tara Hunt's blog, she talks about the example of how the now-ubiquitous Post-It note came into being. (Stay with me, here.) Tara writes about the three personalities that were responsible for the Post-It note's success: the Creator, Catalyst, and Champion.
"...the Creator, Spencer Silver, had come up with the glue that makes the Post-It note work almost a decade before the Catalyst, Arthur Fry, found a use for the glue (keeping his church choir sheets staying put). But even then, it didn't even make it past corporate scrutiny until they found Champions: the people who were able to take the idea and sell it to others. [...] Creators are the inventors, the coders, the people who come up with a crazy idea. Quite often, though, they aren't able to connect that crazy idea with a real life issue to be solved. That's the Catalyst's job. Catalysts are really awesome at understanding real life applications of wacky ideas. They are connectors. But Catalysts aren't always good at marketing their ideas nor can they replicate themselves, so they need Champions (many of them) to take that awesome application of the wacky invention and spread the word. The three types of people behind innovation are necessary to make ideas come alive and spread."
And so, in the cultural domain, are curators catalysts or champions? A bit of both? Are they also sometimes the creator? I found this example to be an interesting way to think about the ways that the role of the curator can shift and requires a wide range of skills and roles to be played.

- And now, for a little light bedtime reading... A recent paper by London-based think-tank Demos about cultural learning provides food for thought. "In the context of recent government announcements about cultural education, Demos today challenged cultural professionals and educationalists to provide a new and coherent direction for creative learning and for encouraging creativity through culture. Culture and Learning: Towards a New Agenda, a consultation paper written by John Holden, is published today to invite debate and responses." Demos is a very interesting think tank, I recommend you browse their full collection of cultural papers at their website.
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Opportunity: Curatorial Fellowship at The Kitchen

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Monday, March 31. 2008 • Category: Announcements
Curatorial Fellowship
Sept. 2008 - May 2009
Application deadline: April 18, 2008

This nine-month fellowship at one of New York’s foremost non-profit interdisciplinary arts spaces provides the opportunity to work closely with The Kitchen’s curatorial staff as well as with a wide range of performing and visual artists. Founded in the early 1970s, The Kitchen identifies, supports, and presents emerging and under-recognized artists working in the areas of video, dance, music, performance art, media arts, and literature. This fellowship includes a $2,500 USD stipend and requires a time commitment of 24 hours per week, beginning in mid-September 2008 and ending in May 2009.

This is an excellent opportunity for a highly motivated individual who is either currently enrolled in or who recently completed a graduate program. At least one year of professional arts administration experience and a broad interest in experimental approaches to contemporary art practice across the disciplines is also important. The Curatorial Fellow works with Kitchen staff on all phases of the exhibition and presentation process, including researching new projects, writing brochure and educational copy, and assisting with the implementation of current exhibitions and performances. The Curatorial Fellow also develops crucial experience interacting with key staff in the development and communications departments at the institution.

Responsibilities may include: researching the work of emerging national and international artists for possible presentation at The Kitchen; corresponding with artists and guest curators; drafting press releases, wall texts, and project descriptions for the website; assisting with the logistical coordination of exhibitions, performances, and The Kitchen’s CD projects; serving as the liaison to dozens of artists participating in the annual benefit art auction; and assisting with the review and organization of artists’ submissions.

Applicants should submit a cover letter and resume by April 18, 2008 to Cody Trepte, The Kitchen, 512 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10011 or via email to cody -at- For more information, please contact Cody Trepte at 1-212-255-5793, ext. 28.
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Pick 'N Mix - March 2008

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, March 1. 2008 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
First of the month again... even with an extra day, February seemed short! Here's the March '08 edition of Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of little news items in the realm of curating.

  • A fascinating article on the state of museums and galleries in China on ARTnews notes that a concern in the face of explosive growth "...has been the absence of training programs for museum professionals in China, a country where the term "curator" did not exist ten years ago. Even now, there is only one program in curatorial studies, run by the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, which is graduating its first class this year. "In China, we didn't have degrees such as arts management or curatorial studies, so most of the museum directors were originally artists," says Fan Di'an, who like many directors in China got his position through political appointment." The artist/curator model is well-established, particularly in North America, and so the reaction to a similar model emerging (albeit under quite different circumstances) is one to keep an eye on.

  • If new media, Internet art and networked art are your thing, there's lots of good reading at this page at the BAM website, with several downloadable documents detailing conversations and interviews with curators, artists and directors by Karen Annemie Verschooren. The interview with Christiane Paul, Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney, is particularly fascinating and candid in its description of the early days of exhibiting new media artwork in a prominent museum.

  • Thomas Krens is leaving the Guggenheim, and this act has sparked a lot of reflection on his years at the helm. Charlie Finch on characterizes the influence of Krens on curatorial practice as "...turning everything into an art that was at once contemporary and exchangeable in ever increasing increments of value." It's a very critical standpoint that also claims that "...the land of Krens evoked the carnival and the circus. Whether showing Spanish painting gems, Aztec war toys, garments or bikes, Krens' vision included the kitchen sink, the golden bidet and everything in between." From that statement out of the USA, let's jump (gently) across the pond for a moment. The new Director of the National Gallery, Nicholas Penny, made a statement saying that as far as he was concerned, the era of the big, sexy blockbuster is over, and Guardian writer Jonathan Jones discusses how the blockbuster itself is not to blame, but that one should blame "sloppy curating - curating that is addicted to short cuts, allergic to the years of research and negotiations it takes to put on a really good exhibition." Food for thought.

  • Finally, the New York Times reports that "nine months after taking over, Jeffrey Weiss has resigned as director of the Dia Art Foundation, saying he had realized he was not cut out for the job." Mr Weiss says: "It took me too far away from curatorial and scholarly work [...] I had an idea that being director of Dia would be different because it is such a small place. [...] My hope is to return to curatorial and scholarly work, but right now I'm taking a breath." It'll be interesting to see both who Dia hires next and what Mr Weiss does next, and serves as a point of reflection on where a curatorial career can be said to "terminate" -- does a curator need to stay in jobs expressly about curating, and leave museum/gallery direction to those with deeper interests in business/administration?
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Pick 'N Mix - December 2007

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, December 1. 2007
It's the first of the month, which means it's time again for Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of interesting tidbits that have captured my attention recently - this month, it seems to be interviews, interviews, interviews!
  • The Uncuratorial Curator is a recent interview on with Massimiliano Gioni, Director of Special Exhibitions at the New Museum in New York. In the interview, Gioni discusses the unique possibilities at the New Museum, his friendship with controversial Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, and much more. Speaking about future plans for his work at the New Museum, Gioni says: "...the museum itself is designed to become a place where the memory and the presence of the street is kept and preserved. [...] We want to do shows that are immersive. You come to an exhibition and the whole exhibition is an experience. It feels a little like being in the head of an artist."

  • David Garcia recently posted an interview with Chinese artist Lin Yilin and some commentary to the nettime mailing list. The post and the responses it generated are excellent and well worth a read. Early on in his post, Garcia notes the role of the Western curator in the Chinese art boom:
    Most of this kind of support for Chinese experimental art seems to come from the western curators. In part this is because a significant number of Chinese artists have chosen to speak our 'language', by which I mean they have adopted the lexicon of western contemporary art practice and used it to explore and to navigate their own experiences of rapid modernisation. The benefits of this kind of political 'economy' flows in both directions; the language of contemporary art practice seems fit for the purpose of navigating the extreme volatility of current Chinese experience and our tired cultural vocabularies are enlivened and transformed by their collision with a new context.

  • And last but not least, a good interview with Ex-Whitney curator Larry Rinder. Speaking about this new role as a college dean, Rinder says: "As a curator, you're generally dealing with things that are already made -- artifacts, works of art -- and trying to puzzle through what they mean and how to illuminate them through writing and juxtaposition. It's a reflective practice. Whereas working in an art school is a more productive activity -- catalyzing information and giving artists the tools and the provocations they need to move forward."

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Pick 'N Mix - August 2007

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Wednesday, August 1. 2007 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to the August edition of Pick 'N Mix.

  • Out of all the online coverage of the "Grand Tour", I found Petra Chevrier and Cheryl Rondeau's documentation of their cycling tour of these mammoth art events one of the most entertaining sources. Art Ride 2007 is a terrific first-hand account of this confluence of art events, with lots of video footage to spice it up. Check it out!

  • John Szarkowski, named "the single most important curator that photography has ever had" by Vanity Fair in 2005, has died at age 81 from complications arising from a stroke. Credited with launching the careers of Lee Friedlander and Diane Arbus, Szarkowski was the Director of Photography at New York's Museum of Modern Art from 1962 to 1991, and was also a highly influential critic.

  • The Red House Centre for Culture and Debate in Sofia, Bulgaria is looking for proposals for its "Curator Season". Exhibition and event proposals must arrive by September 30, 2007, so check out their website for more details, and give yourself plenty of time (it's summer after all, so everything moves a little slower!) to respond to the call.

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Job: Associate Curator at Exit Art

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Monday, July 23. 2007 • Category: Jobs & Opportunities
Exit Art is a leading non-profit cultural arts center in New York, USA that champions the work of young and emerging artists and addresses important social, cultural and political issues through multi-disciplinary programming that include contemporary art exhibitions, performances, film and video programs, and panel discussions.

Exit Art seeks an Associate Curator to partner with the Founding Directors and curatorial staff to formulate and implement a diverse array of programming. In 2007, Exit Art celebrates its 25th anniversary year as one of New York's leading multidisciplinary art centers and a catalyst of the experimental art scene. The organization will launch five new initiatives including S.E.A. (Social Environmental Aesthetics) focusing on artists who address contemporary environmental issues.

The Associate Curator position entails: conceptualizing, creating, and coordinating exhibitions; publicizing and promoting exhibitions and serving as a press liaison; and providing development assistance such as writing grant narratives.

The successful candidate will be engaged with the international contemporary art scene; must possess at least two years of prior curatorial experience; a deep commitment to contemporary art and artists; and the willingness to work for a fluid and dynamic arts organization. Strong writing skills are also necessary. Please send a resume, cover letter, and writing sample to jeanette @ by Friday July 27, 2007.
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Pick 'N Mix - June 2007

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Friday, June 1. 2007 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to the June edition of Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of bite-sized items that have caught my eye recently.

  • Art fair season is upon us, though many collectors and curators seem to lament the lack of desirable objects to purchase, even at one of the biggest of them all, Art Basel: ""We don't buy much at the fair,'' said Todd Levin, who oversees the $100 million Sender Collection from New York, in a telephone interview. "Art fairs have morphed into a 'fairorama' and consumer paradise or hell that is not conducive to spending time to investigate a work.''"

  • Cynthia Beth Rubin adroitly notes on the iDC mailing list that there is in fact, plenty of quality work to collect, there is simply perhaps not enough that is 'on trend'. Rubin writes: "We know that we live in a curated time, a time in which the interest comes not from the artists but from those who envision and organize exhibits around conceptual movements that they either identify or invent (who knows?). If work falls outside of the parameters of the curatorial mission, then it is not shown. If work is too similar to already selected work, it is not shown. But if work goes too long without being shown, it fall out of view of the curators, and it is difficult to resurrect it." Rubin is reacting to this article in the New York Times, about the hot (or not, if you are an ambitious collector?) market at Art Basel.

  • The word "curator" is increasingly coming to mean someone whose taste you trust to sift through mountains of blog posts every day, and present you with the golden nuggets (which is a little bit like what I am doing with these "Pick 'N Mix" posts, I suppose). Björn Jeffery at Good Old Trend explains why he believes journalists need to move from being gatekeepers to being "curators" in the this sense: "Imagine an art curator running a gallery for instance. You don’t go to the gallery because you necessarily know the artist exhibiting, but you trust the curator enough to go anyway. You respect his/her taste and choices enough to check it out." Being trustworthy was always part of being a journalist, and now with this expanding definition of curator, journalists are also expected to have taste.

  • A rose by another name would smell as sweet, right? Perhaps, but that hasn't stopped the powers that be at the Museum of Television in New York City from renaming it so that it will no longer be known as a museum. “'Museum' was not a word that tests really well with the under-30 and 40-year-olds,” especially in the context of radio and television, Pat Mitchell, the museum's chief executive said. Henceforth, it will be known as the Paley Center for Media, after the late CBS founder William S. Paley.

  • And finally, has put some interviews with curators from their Fresh Moves project online.

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Marcia Tucker

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Thursday, October 19. 2006 • Category: News
“Act first, think later — that way you have something to think about.”
Marcia Tucker, curator and founder of the New Museum of Contemporary Art.

Marcia Tucker, a forceful curator who responded to being fired from the Whitney Museum of American Art by founding the New Museum of Contemporary Art, died on October 17 at her home in Santa Barbara, Calif. She was 66.

Read the full obituary here, and a report from the memorial service

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Fellowship opportunity for curators

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Friday, September 1. 2006 • Category: Announcements
Dedalus Foundation, Inc., New York, NY
U.S. citizens only
Deadline: September 15, 2006

Senior Fellowship Program: 
The Dedalus Foundation invites applications to its program of grants in support of art historians, critics, and curators pursuing projects related to the study of modern art and modernism. 
Applicants need not be affiliated with educational institutions or museums; they may not, however, be candidates for a degree. Applicants must be U.S. citizens. 

Awards will be made for periods of up to one year. Stipends will vary according to need, with a maximum of $30,000. 

Submission Guidelines:
Completed applications and supporting letters must be received at the Foundation by September 15th. Announcement of the award will be made by mid-December. 

Request for fellowship application forms and guidelines should be addressed to: 

Dedalus Foundation, Inc. 
555 West 57th Street, Suite 1222 
New York, NY 10019 
Attention: Senior Fellowship Program 

More information
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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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