Michelle Kasprzak's views on contemporary art curating

Call for Proposals: Wales At Venice 2011

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, March 30. 2010 • Category: Jobs & Opportunities

A Call For Curatorial Propositions From Galleries, Arts Organisations, Curators, Artist/curators And Visual Arts Collectives
Wales At Venice 2011
Closing Date 16 April 2010

Arts Council of Wales is delighted to confirm that Wales will be participating at the 54th International Art Exhibition Venice Biennale in 2011. Wales at Venice is supported by the Arts Council of Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government and is a key part of the strategy for the visual arts in Wales.

Wales at Venice will be in its 5th Biennale year in 2011. Previous artists representing Wales include, John Cale, Richard Deacon, Merlin James, Heather & Ivan Morison, Peter Finnemore, Bethan Huws, Cerith Wyn Evans (see ) The Biennale enhanced these artists' international profile and has showcased outstanding work from Wales.

This opportunity remains the prime international context for contemporary art and raises Wales' cultural profile as a place for many emerging and highly respected artists. With a variety of approaches taken to date, Arts Council of Wales is now seeking to open out the possibilities for our next presence, as it responds to the on-going shifts for presenting contemporary art.

In the past, artists have been chosen to represent Wales by a commissioner and curator working with a committee. However for 2011, we feel it would be more exciting and rewarding to call for submissions and ideas from our visual arts community.

It is vital that this international platform is maximised, that the presentation speaks of contemporary Wales and that it connects in artistic terms with other curated exhibitions and presentations at the Biennale. In essence it needs to continue to build the focus on contemporary art from and within Wales.

This is a call to galleries, arts organisations, curators, artist/curators and collectives with a proven track record of working internationally or delivering respected international presentations of contemporary art. Interested parties should be based in Wales or have a connection/awareness of Welsh contemporary visual arts practice.

To prepare for Venice in 2011, Arts Council of Wales is initiating the following process: 

1. Invite exploratory propositions through this call. (March-April 2010)
2. The Venice Advisory Committee will evaluate these propositions. (April 2010)
3. Offer a short development phase supported by a fee to a maximum of three propositions, (April- May)
4. Make a final selection, before constituting and financing the partnership team and artist(s) to create the exhibition. (May-June 2010)

Reports at the various stages will be posted on the Arts Council of Wales website and the Wales at Venice website.

In addition to realising the exhibition at the Biennale, the partnership will need to actively contribute towards a strong education programme, audience development initiatives and raising the profile on an international stage of high quality visual arts practice in Wales.

For further enquiries and to request a Wales at Venice Biennale Proposition Form please contact Lindsay Hughes, Senior Visual Arts Officer at Arts Council of Wales, -at-

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Pick 'N Mix - June 2009

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, May 12. 2009 • Category: Pick 'N Mix

Apologies for a late Pick 'N Mix this month... but I had a great excuse. Like many others in the art world, the beginning of June involved being completely absorbed in the Venice Biennale. You can check out my photos from Venice here.

- While we're on the topic of Venice, the Wall Street Journal posted a short interview with the director, Daniel Birnbaum, who curated the main exhibition spaces at the Biennale. Birnbaum says: "I think if the curator is successful, he becomes invisible in a way." This idea of invisibility may initially seem impossible in this particular case, as indeed Birnbaum's job is a very visible one in a sense, but Birnbaum's work also is made invisible by the sheer scale and grandeur of the event. For me, the dazzle of the preview week prevented real reflection, and it is only upon my return, looking at my many photos, that I can begin to appreciate Birnbaum's curatorial methods.

- Of course, following on immediately after Venice is another major art event (albeit of a different nature) -- Art Basel. The organisers have magnanimously transcribed the talks that have taken place at Art Basel over the years. Browse this archive and see what strikes your fancy. (Coincidentally, the conversation for Art 36 Basel was hosted by Daniel Birnbaum.)

- The credit crunch continues to bite, and Curbed L.A. pronounces that the career path for architecture curators is "looking dodgy", partly on the basis of the recent layoff of L.A. MOCA's architecture and design curator. Personally, I'd hesitate to call it a trend of a scale to make the whole career path 'dodgy', though this individual instance is unfortunate.

- I recently received an email asking about good websites for job hunting. While it's true the best jobs are often the ones that you hear about from friends and colleagues, you couldn't go wrong keeping an eye on Akimbo (Canada-focused), Arts Professional (UK-focused), the Guardian culture section (UK-focused), Museum Jobs (UK-focused), CHIN (Canada-focused), ArtsJobs (US-focused), and the NYFA (US-focused). Of course, I'll continue to post lots of relevant jobs here.

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Job: Curator, Wales at the Venice Biennale

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Monday, June 16. 2008 • Category: Jobs & Opportunities
Building on the achievements of the Wales exhibitions at the last three Biennales of Art in Venice, the Arts Council of Wales is now appointing to the following posts to work on the 2009 Biennale. It also has vacancies on its Wales at Venice Advisory Committee.

Fixed term freelance contract, fee £24,000 per annum, commencing July 2008, in Cardiff.

Duties: To select the artist or artists to represent Wales at the Biennale in 2009 and curate the exhibition. The Curator will work with the Commissioner and Project Manager and will report to the Advisory Committee. Applicants must have extensive knowledge of the contemporary visual arts in Wales and internationally and evidence the skills and track record necessary to ensure a major contribution to the presence of Wales at the 2009 Venice Biennale. Applications for the above are by letter accompanied by CV.

For information about previous Wales at Venice exhibitions visit

Closing date for applications: Noon on Monday, 30 June 2008. The Council works in both Welsh and English. Further information is available online at or from the Human Resources Department: Tel: (029) 2037 6500.

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Job: Curator, Northern Ireland at the Venice Biennale

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, May 10. 2008 • Category: Jobs & Opportunities
Northern Ireland is preparing for its third presentation at the Venice Biennale of Visual Arts in 2009. The Venice Biennale Working Party, comprising the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and British Council Northern Ireland, is now seeking to appoint a curator, curatorial partnership or organisation to research, develop and deliver Northern Ireland’s presence.

The curator(s) should have an excellent knowledge of contemporary art practice in Northern Ireland and an understanding of developments in contemporary visual arts at an international level, along with a proven track record in the management and delivery of projects of a significant scale.

Interested parties can obtain further information from:
Craig Corsar
Arts Council of Northern Ireland
77 Malone Road
E-mail: ccorsar -at-

Proposals should be submitted on or before 4.30pm on 23 May 2008.
Interviews will be held the week commencing 10 June 2008.
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Man Bites Dog (or, Artist Chooses Curator)

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Wednesday, December 13. 2006
When a curator simply chooses an artist, that isn't news. (Just as a dog biting a man would not be news, either.) But when a man bites a dog, or an artist chooses a curator, we've got more of a story. (Background on the journalistic expression "Man bites dog").

I'm using "Man bites dog" in jest, of course, but it was a phrase that immediately struck me that whilst reading an article by Dana Gilerman I found at

Suzanne Landau, a senior curator at the Israel Museum, will curate the Israeli Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in June 2007. A Culture Ministry committee selected artist Yehudit Sasportas six months ago to represent Israel at the event; Sasportas, in turn, chose Landau to curate the exhibit.

An unusual move, I would say. Landau seems to think so as well:

"I have a problem with this method, in which a random group sits and selects an artist," says Landau. "It seems abnormal to me. I think this group could have irrelevant interests, and there have already been cases in the past that proved this. I have also mentioned this more than once to Idit Amichai, the coordinator of the Culture Ministry committee."

What would you suggest instead?

"That the committee choose a curator, as is the practice in other countries and as was done here in the past."

The reasoning for this inversion of process is provided a bit later on, but is glossed over:

There were also ethical problems in the past with regard to the selection of curators. "Then perhaps the problem is that Israel is a small country and there is nothing that can be done about that."

The ethical problems that would blight a selection process for a curator would also no doubt cause problems when selecting an artist. I don't have the knowledge of the art scene in Israel that would allow me to comment on this specific case with special insight. However, I think that the reasoning behind why the process ended up being a "man bites dog/artist chooses curator" situation is quite interesting. Suzanne makes a fair point in her response, but even the largest countries break down into very small art scenes, usually defined by city boundaries, but also sometimes subdivided even further. "Ethical problems" could mar a selection process in a scene of any size. The question is, how do we handle these problems, and is the solution to invert the process entirely?

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