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Michelle Kasprzak's views on contemporary art curating

Pick 'N Mix - May 2007

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, May 1. 2007 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Let's start May off right with another Pick 'N Mix!
  • At the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, the patrons are invited to curate the show. “I’m hoping that this discussion will shed more light on the institution and give us a better sense of who our audience is,” Acting Curator Christopher Cook said. “I see this as a way of building relationships." The project ends when the walls are full.

  • The inimitable Momus asks: "Why not give us little video tours to entice us to visit, sneak previews of shows, interviews with artists, curators and docents?", among other relevant questions directed at art museums. I'm with you, brother (though he does note some museums are leading the way).

  • In case you were wondering, here are some short profiles on the curatorial team behind the Seattle Art Museum.

  • AddArt is a Firefox browser plug-in that allows you to block advertisements on a web page, and replace them with works of art, from a curated database. I'm looking forward to the the final launch of this one!

  • If you are in London on the 10th of May, you may be interested to drop in on the Thursday Club, which features Kelli Dipple, Marc Garrett, Ruth Catlow, Armin Medosch, and Janis Jefferies speaking about curating interdisciplinary arts. It runs from 6-8.30 PM in the seminar rooms at the Ben Pimlott Building, New Cross, SE14 6NW, and it's free. Here's hoping someone blogs the conversation!
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"Agile and open" - DiY Curating

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, October 10. 2006 • Category: News
There is an article on the "DiY curating" scene in Seattle by Regina Hackett in a recent issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The article is fairly long and profiles a number of opportunistic young curators, who have harnessed unique venues to host their shows - ranging from the back of a truck, a local café, and a virtual island in the virtual world Second Life.

Seattle currently boasts a wealth of excellent young curators. While a few have found jobs at major arts institutions, there aren't nearly enough of these jobs to go around in a field that's booming in major urban centers everywhere.

That means curators of Van Nostrand's generation, even with solid academic records (she has a master's degree in contemporary art history from Richmond American University in London), have to make their own opportunities.


I would say this is probably a given for just about any urban center. The demand for professional positions in the creative industries will always outstrip the number of posts available. By highlighting the unusual and innovative practices of these young curators working on the fringes, the author of this article accentuates the fact that though these curators may not have top posts in museums or galleries, the exhibitions they are developing are professional grade.

"What it means to be a curator is more agile and open than it used to be," he [Fionn Meade] said. "Curatorial thinking crosses disciplines. The field benefits from what people from a range of backgrounds can contribute."


The very definition of "curator" is certainly more open than it used to be. At any rate, it will be interesting to follow the careers of these young curators and the artists they are selecting for their exhibitions. These qualities of openness and agility that they are demonstrating now will certainly be assets to them throughout their careers.


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Marketing the Museum

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Friday, September 29. 2006 • Category: Musings
Seth Godin is a marketing guru who has published numerous books and has an excellent blog. I'm not a marketer nor a businessperson with a product to sell, but I read his blog anyways because I find the underlying psychology of marketing to be quite interesting. In the end, it's all about how people relate to people, a topic that should interest anyone who has to interact with people on a daily basis (which is probably 99% of us).

Usually the content on his blog is relevant to me on this fundamental level of human psychology, not as a curator or arts administrator directly. In one of his recent posts, however, Godin has some direct critiques for curators at museums:


I think in every single case, what keeps museums from being remarkable:

a. the curators think the item on display is the whole thing. As a result, they slack off and do less than they should in creating an overall story

b. they assume that visitors are focused, interested and smart. They are rarely any of the three. As a result, the visit tends to be a glossed over one, not a deep one or a transcendent one

c. science museums in particular almost beg people NOT to think.

I can't remember the last time a museum visit made my cry, made me sad or made me angry (except at the fact that they don't try hard enough).


Definitely some food for thought in there, though probably echoes of criticisms we are all well aware of. Godin wraps the post by saying:

The takeaway for me is that in fact the issues of storytelling and remarkability and respect are universal, whether you're a non-profit or a job-seeker. It's all people, all the time.


This is true, and why it is relevant for curators and arts administrators to look to other disciplines, like marketing, for new approaches from time to time.
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