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Curating.info

Contemporary art curating news and views from Michelle Kasprzak and team

Pick 'N Mix #39

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Wednesday, June 30. 2010 • Category: Pick 'N Mix


- David Barrie recently gave a thought-provoking lecture entitled "A Bigger Picture: why contemporary art curators need to get out more". He describes why a heritage-oriented mindset can result in constrained collections, noting that: "Despite our long colonial history and our rich links with countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean [...] visitors to museums and galleries in the UK have remarkably few opportunities to see art that is being produced in countries that lie outside the narrow confines of the so-called 'international contemporary art world'." He also skewers the myopic tendencies of some curators who "... neglect art that does not fit comfortably into their intellectual categories". He calls for curators to "get out more", escape the bonds of insularity, and be brave by broadening their own horizons. The text is simultaneously a call to action and an examination of conscience.

- A great interview with Carolee Thea by Richard J. Goldstein that reveals some of her thoughts on the biennial ("an exhibition structure beyond itself, an event that allows for very difficult subject matter"; "Its function, as defined by planners and curators, is to add intellectual capital"; "a component in spreading visual literacy"; etc) and the art market ("artists and curators are unavoidably affected by the onslaught of art fairs and consumerism"). (Thea's recent book of interviews with prominent curators, On Curating: Interviews with Ten International Curators also looks quite good.)

- "I'm not against the market. It's just that I'm against the way the market is overdetermining the art complex at the moment," Vasif Kortun says. "At the same time, we know full well that we provide almost a recruitment ground or a research and progress for the market at the same time. It would be quite ridiculous to say that the biennale is completely alien and independent of the market and its interests."

- Francesco Bonami once said "In theory now you could curate a whole Venice Biennale using only the Internet". The Guggenheim takes a few steps in that direction with YouTube Play, a contest to find the best online video works. Submitted videos will be assessed by a jury and the winners will be exhibited at Guggenheim Museums around the world, and of course, on YouTube.

- An article by Janine Armin on the New York Times articulates the current precarious position freelance curators find themselves in, and identifies the growth of biennials as a particular bright spot in opportunities for freelancers. I found Nicola Trezzi's article describing the growth of artist-curated exhibitions in FlashArt a good complement to Armin's article. While Armin's article quoted established curators explaining why freelancers are still very much necessary (even if it is difficult to be one), Trezzi's article can be viewed as taking those statements even further, reminding us of the multiplicity of reasons why or how someone would curate an exhibition, how it's a creative act in itself, and the value of the artist-curator viewpoint.

Pick 'N Mix - May 2009

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Friday, May 1. 2009 • Category: Pick 'N Mix

Welcome to May's Pick 'N Mix:

- An interesting ethical issue is raised by Regina Hackett in her great, new-ish blog, Another Bouncing Ball. In a post entitled "Curators who are loath to credit art dealers", she outlines a few examples wherein collectors were acknowledged, but the dealers who helped to make an artist's career weren't. She asks: "Isn't it time to abandon the illusion that dealers are all about money and curators are all about art?" It's an underdiscussed topic, and I think Hackett is exactly right: the lines between the roles of all participants in the art ecosystem can be a bit fuzzy at times, and certainly the psychological barriers set up between for-profit practice and other areas is less than useful (though that doesn't mean it should escape critical examination).

- In a similar, why-does-this-happen-when-it-makes-no-sense kind of vein (though I apologise for the lack of a direct relation to curating), Jennifer Higgie writes a piece on the recent Turner Prize shortlist for Frieze's blog, noting that once again critics are braying about the "weirdness" of the shortlisted artists' works. Read the article to find out Higgie's hilarious counterpoints to the supposed weirdness of the nominees.

- I quite liked this interview in BOMB Magazine, where a curator is the interviewer, rather than the interviewee. Again -- sorry for the tenuous link, but I think Pedro Reyes is a really interesting artist, and Tatiana Cuevas does a great job interviewing him.

- On a final note, I'm happy that it's Futuresonic Festival time again in Manchester. Festival Director Drew Hemment and Art Programme Manager Dennis Hopkins have curated the main exhibition, and has decided that rather than hold the usual gallery tours conducted by himself or gallery staff, he will have external curators give tours of the exhibition, that will be "honest, open, warts and all". This idea is appealing on so many levels: to see what commentary a fresh pair of eyes will bring, as a solution for how to involve the curatorial community in an exhibition that they didn't take part in formulating, etc. I am delighted to be one of these external invitees and look forward to the experience -- I will report back on how it went here!
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Pick 'N Mix - February 2009

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Wednesday, January 21. 2009 • Category: Pick 'N Mix

Welcome to February's Pick 'N Mix: the credit crunch special!

- They say the financial trends that impact the art world are about six months behind larger global financial trends. Perhaps there's a grain of truth to that, given the doom and gloom in the headlines recently, including a 20% reduction in staff at the LA MoCA and the Rose Museum's (apparent) imminent closure.

- Significant job security worries aside for a moment, what could this mean for curators? Mark Spiegler, Art Basel co-director believes that "...with less money flowing around, gallerists may conclude that if there are no sure sales, they might as well do something interesting and significant. In the past, certain types of art were sure to sell, and if you took a risk, you were leaving money on the table." Glasgow-based curator Francis McKee concurs with this sentiment, explaining in this longer segment on BBC Scotland the largely positive impact that the last major recession had on the London and Glasgow art scenes: "the recession will actually help us in some ways".

- And of course, in these tough financial times, it's never a bad idea for the state to intervene: In France, Nicolas Sarkozy has canceled a cut to culture funding and he instead increased the budget by €100 million, established a new cultural council, and implemented a policy enabling free entrance to museums for visitors under twenty-five years of age. Bravo!

- Last but not least, while we may have to stretch budgets a bit further for practical things, Ben Davis argues we should not allow ourselves to enter an intellectual recession as he discusses a current crisis in art criticism: "For if a neoliberal boom has been the context for the "crisis of criticism" debate heretofore, the current, stomach-turning collapse represents the implosion of that economic model. [...] Mainstream ideas about what makes sense for society are in flux. Shouldn’t criticism be too?"
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Pick 'N Mix - September 2007

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, September 1. 2007 • Category: Pick 'N Mix

Welcome to the September edition of Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of bite-sized items that have caught my eye recently.
  • An interesting article about the curating scene in Singapore recently appeared online. In it, Ahmad Mashadi notes that the curator's role has become more complex, becoming implicated in marketing and sponsorship, where previously it might have been more focused on "research, growth and display" of a museum's collection. The article also discusses the emerging trend of the artist-curator in Singapore.

  • Jerry Saltz writes an excellent article on the alchemy of curating, in which he makes several bold (but astute) statements:
    "...curating is becoming less of a dark art and more of a science or profession."
    "The alchemy of good curating amounts to this: sometimes placing one work of art near another makes one and one equal three."
    "...one of the first rules of curating should be "Stop Making Sense."'
    The article goes on to dissect the curatorial strategies and pitfalls in the big three: Documenta, Venice Biennale, and Münster Sculpture Project.

  • It's rare that one has occasion to read a line like this: "No, the most interesting part of the show is that excruciating pile of false, overweening enthusiasms that make up that curatorial statement, not for what they say, necessarily, but for what they assume." In Artfag's "Toronto Manifesto", we get these kinds of critical, nearly brutal, statements and so much more. If you have anything invested in the Toronto art scene, this piece will certainly interest you; if you don't, it's worth a read anyway, as many of the observations made in this manifesto are universally applicable - such as this note on the importance of recently-graduated artists: "gallerists in New York and Los Angeles keep a keen eye on the goings on of the graduate students that are pumped out every year. Any art scene needs a constant supply of fresh blood, and most gallerists and buyers know exactly where to find it." (Discovered via Sally McKay's blog.)
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