Views on contemporary art curating

Pick 'N Mix - May 2008

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, May 3. 2008 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to the May edition of Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of things that caught my eye over the course of the previous month. There are just two quick items this month, as a sort of "compare and contrast" exercise:

- In one of my web trawls, I found this lesson plan for teaching children what a curator does. I thought it was interesting to take a look at because despite high level discussions about the role of the curator, what emerges in more reductive definitions (for example, something that a child could understand in one short lesson) highlights what may or may not be a conventionally agreed aspect of the role. In this case I noted that beyond the obvious step of selecting work, the lesson plan includes a section on writing didactic texts for the student's imaginary audience, explaining their curatorial choices.

- Then over at Time Out New York, a timeline indicates some of the key tasks that the curators of the most recent Whitney Biennial performed. It obviously doesn't indicate all of the tasks that the curators completed, but unlike our lesson plan for kids, it doesn't mention writing, and meeting with artists and negotiating the media are highlighted.

These two short items provide glimpses into how the role of the curator and the key tasks within that role are presented and described to others, which might make us ask ourselves: What do I emphasise when I talk about curating a project to someone else, and what does that indicate about my favourite/least favourite aspects of the role?
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Article: On an artist as a one-time curator

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Monday, August 28. 2006 • Category: Musings
From "(Not) Gay Art Now" Curator Jack Pierson Comments on His (Exceptional) Show" by Bryant Rousseau, on

What advantages might an artist have in assembling a show over a more traditional curator?

"I wasn't interested, and I don't think most artists would be, in making a checklist of artists to include six months in advance. I'm in awe of curators who can put three works next to each and create these incredible associations, but a lot of the best work in this show got included at the last minute. I think you gain a lot by spontaneity, by artists just trusting their subliminal instincts, by building a show's aesthetic on the fly."

Would he curate again?

"I love curating, and I'd do it professionally if I could make a living at it."�

And how does spending time in a curatorial role impact his own art making? "It gets me more free, more charged up to try a little of everything," said Pierson.

"Building a show's aesthetic on the fly" strikes me as an interesting sentiment. While this particular artist/curator incorporates spontaneity into his process through the selection of works, I think most curators could and do achieve this with a combination of exhibition design and creative installation of the works themselves. Focusing on a "checklist of artists" as the only creative act seems to radically diminish the role of curator, which of course includes tasks ranging from mind-numbingly banal to incredibly fun.

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