Michelle Kasprzak's views on contemporary art curating

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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