Contemporary art curating news and views from Michelle Kasprzak and team

Pick 'N Mix #38

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Friday, June 4. 2010 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
- Robert Manchester, curator at the Yellowstone Art Museum, was recently fired. Some tensions: "Manchester said he was asked by Peterson [the Executive Director] to have Apfelbaum [the current artist exhibiting] change her installation and he refused. "You don’t tell an international artist to make something else. I just said I wouldn’t do it. Because I defied Robyn, I had to go. I hadn’t abdicated my curatorial responsibilities," he said. Manchester said he hung 44 shows during his tenure at the museum while he watched the number of staff members decline. Peterson said the YAM currently employs the equivalent of 17 full-time employees. She said the past year has been a financial challenge for the museum, which closed its café and museum store in the past year." Reading between the lines, and extrapolating this situation (a closed cafe and store, alleged increased demands/stringencies on curatorial action), I wonder how many similar situations are unfolding at institutions worldwide: curators asked to trim in the face of dismissed cafe staff, a shuttered store; curators asked what they are doing (still working the old-fashioned way?) personally with artists to commission new work? I don't envy anyone's position (ambitious curator; financially-pressured director) in this situation, though I sympathise most with the curator trying to defend the artist. We are all just trying to make something remarkable happen, for artists, for ourselves, for the public.

- A power couple (Art historian Libby Lumpkin and art critic Dave Hickey) are leaving Las Vegas, and the article detailing their departure is an interesting short study in what makes an art scene. In this case we are talking about an art historian and a critic, but curators are often expected to be this force. In a recent edition of the Edinburgh Salon I used to co-produce with curator Kirsten Lloyd, we discussed "art scenes", and this sounds like a frivolous topic, but as the article about Lumpkin and Hickey details, it is deadly serious when the intellectual centre of gravity leaves town. What makes or breaks places, "scenes", is the people, and curators are in a particularly prime place to shape dialogue and provide leadership.

- Issue 05 of On Curating is out, and this edition, The Making of... focuses on development processes and production conditions of exhibitions. Central issues are: collaborative processes, expectations by artists / curators and working conditions, with contributions by: Sabeth Buchmann, Marina Coelho, Sønke Gau, Juan Francisco Gonzalez-Martinez, and many more.

- Independent Curators International (ICI) are doing a really interesting series of talks at the New Museum, and independent curator Bisi Silva is one of their most recent guests. In the podcast of the talk, Silva discusses the mission and history of the Centre, her career as a curator, and the various political, social, cultural and artistic notions that CCA, Lagos' exhibitions have examined.

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More podcasts

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, November 22. 2008 • Category: Reviews & Resources
The San Francisco Art Institute has a podcast series entitled "Dialogues". Two podcasts in this series may interest readers: one featuring Laura Hoptman, and another featuring Carlos Basualdo.

Laura Hoptman curated the 2004 Carnegie International exhibition in Pittsburgh and Drawing Now: Eight Propositions at the Museum of Modern Art, Queens. In her talk, Hoptman discusses her interest in artwork that explores big questions: those of life, death, and the meaning of the universe. Carlos Basualdo is the Curator of Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and an Adjunct Professor at the IUAV University in Venice, Italy. He was a co-founder (with Hans Ulrich Obrist) of the Union of the Imaginary, an online forum for the discussion of issues pertaining to curatorial practice. These podcasts are long and feature lengthy introductions, so better to listen to these when you have a bit of time.

Veteran podcasters Bad at Sports teamed up with Side Street Projects to present a 10-part podcast series entitled "What Do Curators Want?" that covers best professional practices for contemporary visual artists. While the podcasts are definitely aimed at artists (and give some terrific concrete tips to artists), the messages about professional practices are often applicable both ways. Far from theoretical talks, these short, practical discussions might be useful to curators too. Of particular interest may be hearing how the featured curators in these podcasts discuss perennial issues such as artistic quality and different types of exhibitions and exhibition venues. Compare their views to yours!

Frieze Foundation (the good folks who bring us the Frieze Art Fair, Frieze Magazine, and other goodies) also have a great podcast series. One of their recent podcasts, Cultural Cartography: Does Art Travel? is a discussion chaired by Philippe Vergne (new director of the DIA Art Foundation in NYC, former Chief Curator and Deputy Director, Walker Art Center) focusing on whether art can really speak across borders. What happens when the local becomes global? Vergne, in his introduction, questions whether we are really taking advantage of international connections and jokes that this podcast could have alternatively been titled "Pasta or chicken?", echoing that familiar refrain on long haul flights. It's a strong panel and well worth downloading.

Happy listening!
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Podcast roundup

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, March 8. 2008 • Category: Reviews & Resources
I listen to a lot of podcasts, mostly while I am walking around the city. I have come across some real gems in a number of subject areas, and thought I would share a few of the recent ones I've listened to that are relevant to curators with you.

Bad at Sports with Hou Hanru:
Hou Hanru is currently the Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs at the San Francisco Art Institute, and he is also a renowned curator who has curated numerous major international shows. Starting at approximately the 10 minute mark, the interview with Hou Hanru begins with a discussion of his education and how he came to be a curator. Other topics discussed include how self-organisation is a hallmark of both his career and of contemporary times, the relationship between artist and curator, and the "voice" of the curator.

Yale University with Robert Storr: (apologies for the indirect link -- scroll down the page to access the podcast with Storr)
Robert Storr is interviewed about his latest appointment, as Dean of the School of Art at Yale University. He discusses how his work as a curator and critic impacts his thinking in his current role. There are many pearls of wisdom in this podcast, one of my favourites being this statement: "...a career is not how many shows you have on your resume, it is what happens between one work of art and the next." Here Storr is referring to an artist's career, but I think the sentiment also applies to curators.

Bad at Sports with Stephanie Smith:
In this podcast, Stephanie Smith, Director of Collections and Exhibitions and Curator of Contemporary Art at the Smart Museum in Chicago, speaks eloquently about the works in the current exhibition on at the Smart, Adaptation. The podcast focuses quite intently on the exhibition itself, rather than Smith's practice as a curator generally. However, it is a very intelligent and interesting discussion of the work, and the conversation does touch on Smith's curatorial intentions, and on how she had to consider the way the work was presented in the Museum.

blogTO with Jacob Korczynski:
At around the 21 minute mark, curator Jacob Korczynski talks about his experiences in the Curatorial Incubator programme at Vtape, a centre for artist's video in Toronto. Jacob talks about how he researched and selected the video artists he selected for his programme.

More of these to come as I get through my playlists. Happy listening!
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Pick 'N Mix - July 2007

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

  • If you aren't already on the CC mailing list, perhaps you should join. "[CC] "circulating contexts--curating media/net/art" is a slightly moderated mailing list as part of a series of experimental long-term research projects hosted by the Vienna-based organisation CONT3XT.NET. From June 1st to August 31st, 2007 five common topics will be the starting point for discussions around current tendencies in the curation of (New) Media and Internet Art. Excerpts of the contributions to the mailinglist will be published in a catalogue, presented in October 2007." Recently, there was an interesting discussion on notions of how curatorial models might be democratised and how the term "curator" may be being stretched to its limit. Sign up to the list by going to the list info web page.

  • Blogumenta, unlike the art-world behemoth that is Documenta, is an un-curated, open exhibition space within Facebook, the online networking site that is taking the 18-29 demographic (and beyond) by storm. It raises questions about what the response to the "grand tour" could and should be - should the pendulum swing to the other extreme, in which no one claims a curatorial credit?

  • A new website in Canada aims to offer ways for emerging curators and administrators to connect with each other. The Emerging Arts Professional network has articles, interviews, and a podcast that touch upon a wide range of topics relevant to individuals in the field. The most recent interview, with Luminato festival director Janice Price, provides many quotable gems, including: "If we can’t have fun doing this, we should all go home."

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Reviews: Ideas podcast

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, February 6. 2007 • Category: Reviews & Resources
[In these upcoming reviews, I'll be highlighting books, podcasts, exhibitions, periodicals, and other items that I think are of particular interest to curators and those concerned with curatorial issues.]

Ideas is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's premier radio programme of contemporary thought. Their podcast highlights the best of the Ideas programmes. You can subscribe to the RSS feed for their podcast here. Their latest podcast release is a fascinating lecture by cultural critic Adam Gopnik entitled: To Sit or to Talk?.

Adam Gopnik discusses the future of museums by pondering a question that he recently asked his kids: Do you prefer theatres, where you can sit? Or museums, where you can talk? Gopnik was delivering the 2006 Eva Holtby Lecture at the Royal Ontario Museum.

His lecture discusses the evolution of musuems, from (as he puts it, in his very alliterative way) the mausoleum, to the machine, to the metaphor/mall. The lecture is an easy listen, and the evolution he speaks of is well delineated. My only contention with what he says is that it is all a little too neat, too pat. He is keen to isolate the museum into these stages of development, but it is clear that all three stages he speaks of still exist and share the same environment within which to survive. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on his lecture.
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Francesco Bonami

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Sunday, November 26. 2006 • Category: News
“In theory now you could curate a whole Venice Biennale using only the Internet,” said Francesco Bonami, senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

This quote comes from a larger article that recently appeared in the New York Times. The article takes a solid look at how pressures to find the "next big thing" leads curators to rack up the frequent flier miles scouring the globe for a fresh face to slot into their next show.

Francesco Bonami is also the focus of the latest Bad at Sports podcast. In the podcast, Bonami covers a lot of ground:

Francesco gives his frank and funny perspective on everything from why Australian art is bad, compares Kentuckians to Europeans, and talks about the role of the curator as artist.

I haven't listened to the podcast yet, but already it sounds as though I would like his style. And judging by his own reflections on the Venice Biennale show he curated in 2003 (“I really got slaughtered [...] When you show the real chaos, people cannot take it"), he fits the profile of a risk-taker that holds no regrets - exactly the sort of person that I believe the contemporary art world needs much, much more of.
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