Michelle Kasprzak's views on contemporary art curating

Pick 'N Mix - December 2009

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Friday, December 11. 2009 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to the last Pick 'N Mix of 2009!

- Here is yet another art world power list, listing several curators, many of whom are "household names" of a sort (Birnbaum, Bonami, Obrist, etc). We're a society obsessed with lists and awards it seems!

- Andy Warhol was all over the news this past month, and one of the major news items referred back to a situation in 1990 involving well-known and respected curator Pontus Hulten. According to reports, some of Warhol's famous Brillo boxes were replicated after the artist's death and passed off as originals, which has resulted in a sticky situation for everyone involved. The details, including some information on Hulten's role in the story, is available at More potential Warhol fakes were discovered, in London-based art dealer Anthony d'Offay's collection, prompting Tate Modern Director Sir Nicholas Serota to hold off on buying the self-portrait on the taxpayer's dime. Full coverage at the Guardian. Of course, it is not hard to imagine that our late Uncle Andy would have had a huge laugh about the complications surrounding a desire for verified authenticity.

- While we're thinking about money, value, and authenticity, here's a good read: The British Council has been holding lectures by leading thinkers such as Dambisa Moyo, Amartya Sen, Muhammad Yunus, and others. In early November Benjamin Barber gave a lecture on art, money and democratic change and it's available to watch or read at the British Council website.

- Here's a handy research tip: If you use Twitter, send a tweet with your research interests to Mute Magazine, and they'll dig up something relevant for you from their archives! I asked them for articles on curating and public art, and was promptly sent links to two great articles: Curating Self-Consciously, and Airing Dirty Laundry in Public Art. Give it a try!

- Independent Curators International (iCI) has a series of lectures planned that looks terrific. Sunday, December 13th Ana Paula Cohen is speaking at the New Museum in New York, USA. Further details here. If you are in the New York area, sign up to their email list to get information on future talks.

- Last but not least, please consider helping a researcher out and filling in this questionnaire for curators developed by Lisa Ladner. I'm sure the results will make for fascinating reading.

Happy holidays!
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Questions: A Survey by Lisa Ladner

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Friday, December 11. 2009 • Category: Questions & Conversations

Swiss researcher and consultant Lisa Ladner approached me to assist in the distribution of this fascinating survey for curators. She has been working as a cultural producer and independent curator in Puerto Rico, and with her international experience she found interesting discrepancies in how institutions around the globe work to support curators. She would like you, as a curator, to answer the questionnaire below and return the answers to her as soon as possible to info -at-, so that she can learn from your experience and share the results not only with her Puerto Rican colleagues but with us, too.

The questionnaire is below, please copy and paste it into a new email and send it directly to Lisa: info -at-
Thanks for your help.

QUESTIONNAIRE / Please don't write what you think is good practice, but honestly describe the current practice!

Please mark one:
[ ] I want my answers to be anonymized
[ ] You may quote me using my name
[ ] Please treat my answers this way: ...

Name: ...
Website (or short bio): ...

Institution: ...
The institution's website (if it doesn't have a website, please describe the institution): ...

Position/relation with the institution: ...


1. Number of in-house curators (paid staff / employment percentage): ...

2. Institution works with guest curators:
[ ] yes
[ ] no
[ ] only

3. Guest curators get paid:
[ ] yes, of course, they get an average of USD ..... per exhibition
[ ] no, it's already an honour they can work for the institution

4. How does the institution cover the guest curator's expenses related to an exhibition such as transportation, accommodations, meals?

5. Please describe the collaboration between the in-house curators and the guest curator. Does the in-house curator interfere with the project or just help in its realization?

6. How much help does the institution grant the guest curator (museum staff, technical assistants,...)? Can the guest curator use the same resources as the in-house curator?

7. Let's say a freelance/independent curator presents an idea with a cost estimate and the institution likes it very much. Does the institution now communicate the available budget for the exhibition and the curator adapts the project or must the curator first present an exact budget and then wait for the institution to see, if they can raise the money? Will the curator get paid for budgeting? Does the institution help the guest curator in the budgeting?

8. How many months prior to an exhibition does the institution communicate if it can be done or not (due to economic reasons)?

9. Does the guest curator get a contract and if so: at what moment in the project? Could you send me a sample or actual contract?

10. Does the guest curator only get paid if the exhibition takes place? What if the show is being cancelled because the institution couldn't raise the money?

11. Can the guest curator be asked to help raise money?

12. Does the institution cover all transportation and insurance costs for the artworks (round trip) including wrapping/crating? Or does it ask the artist to cover some of the costs?

13. Who looks for transportation/insurance/customs quotes: the institution or the artist?

14. Are artists being paid for having their work in an institutional show or are they asked to pay for it (for example with the argument that the work's value goes up by being exhibited)?

15. If an artist has to be present for the mounting or opening: does the institution pay for transportation/accommodations/meals? Does it also pay a compensation for the invested time?

16. Regarding the above questions: does it matter if the work comes from the artist, an art dealer/gallery or a collection/collector or from another institution or are they all being treated equally?

17. Do artists receive money to complete a work or is this only the case, if the work was commissioned?

18. Are artists being asked to come up for or provide exhibition equipment such as DVD players, headphones, loudspeakers, cables, beamers, monitors, computers or whatever is needed to exhibit their piece?

19. Does the institution set up a contract with the artist or makes him fill out just a standard form? At what moment? Please send samples or actual documents.

20. Do you ask the artists to provide professional high resolution photos of their work to be used for free in the catalogue?

21. Does your institution have a curatorial guideline/handbook such as Please provide.

22. Are proposals by in-house and freelance/independent curators being treated equally (for example: propose to director, then pass the exhibition committee, then being assigned an in-house curator/committee member to accompany the project)?

23. How many exhibitions does the institution do yearly (average)?

24. If you're a curator: how many exhibitions do you do yearly (average) / how many have you done in your career (approx.)?


Comments: ...

Please mark:
[x] yes, I'd like to get the results from this inquiry
[ ] no, I'm not interested in the results

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Opportunity: Research Fellowships, National Galleries of Canada

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Sunday, February 8. 2009 • Category: Jobs & Opportunities
The Research Fellowships Program of the National Gallery of Canada encourages and supports advanced research. The fellowships emphasize the use and investigation of the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, including those of the Gallery’s Library and Archives. 2009/2010 competitive fellowships are offered in the field of Canadian Art (including the Indigenous Art of Canada); European and Modern Art; and Art Conservation.

Applications are welcomed from art historians, curators, critics, independent researchers, conservators, conservation scientists and other professionals in the visual arts, museology and related disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, who have a graduate degree or equivalent publication history. The fellowships are open to international competition.

Fellowships are tenable only at the National Gallery of Canada. The term of full-time residency must fall within the period 1 September 2009 to 31 August 2010. Awards can be up to $5,000 a month, including expenses and stipend, to a maximum of $30,000.

The National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives houses the most extensive collection of visual arts literature in Canada (250,000 books and periodicals), and constitutes the national research collection in the field. Materials on Canadian art are collected comprehensively. Holdings are international in scope, with notable strengths in the history of western European and North American art and the history of photography.

Deadline: 30 April 2009.

For application procedures, please consult the website or contact:

Jonathan Franklin
Chief, Library, Archives and Research Fellowships Program
National Gallery of Canada
P.O. Box 427, Station A
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 9N4

telephone (613) 990-0590
fax (613) 990-6190
fellowships -at-
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Opportunity: Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, November 4. 2008 • Category: Jobs & Opportunities
The Lemelson Center offers two different ways for researchers to receive financial support while using the invention-related collections at the Smithsonian. The Fellowship Program provides a prorated stipend for up to ten weeks and is currently accepting applications until the January 15, 2009 deadline. The Travel to Collections Award offers researchers a travel allowance and a stipend for up to 21 days and accepts applications year-round.

These programs support research projects that present creative approaches to the study of invention and innovation in American society may include, but are not limited to, historical research and documentation projects resulting in publications, exhibitions, educational initiatives, and multimedia products. [Ed: emphasis mine.]

The Archives Center holds more than 14,000 feet of archival materials. The collections are particularly strong in documenting the history of technology, invention, and innovation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Both individuals and companies are documented in subject areas including railroads, pianos, television, radio, plastics, ivory, and sports equipment. One of the largest collections is the Western Union Telegraph Company Records, ca. 1840-1994. Other collections of significance include the Earl S. Tupper Papers, documenting the inventor Tupper and his invention Tupperware; the Darby Windsurfing Collection, 1946-1998, documenting the invention of the sailboard; and the Records of Small Beginnings, Inc., a medical supply company that designs, invents, manufactures, and distributes products for premature infants.

Since 1995 the Lemelson Center has supported oral and video documentation of contemporary inventors and inventions, covering inventions in a variety of fields, such as healthcare, consumer electronics, and toys.

The Lemelson Center was established at the National Museum of American History in 1995 through a gift from The Lemelson Foundation. Jerome Lemelson (1923-1997) was an independent inventor who earned more than 600 patents, representing one of the largest patent portfolios in America's history.

The Center's mission is to document, interpret, and disseminate information about invention and innovation, to encourage inventive creativity in young people, and to foster an appreciation for the central role invention and innovation play in the history of the United States.

For more information about these programs, including deadlines, eligibility, and application forms and procedures, please visit:
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