First of the month again… even with an extra day, February seemed short! Here’s the March ’08 edition of Pick ‘N Mix, my monthly annotated list of little news items in the realm of curating.

  • A fascinating article on the state of museums and galleries in China on ARTnews notes that a concern in the face of explosive growth “…has been the absence of training programs for museum professionals in China, a country where the term “curator” did not exist ten years ago. Even now, there is only one program in curatorial studies, run by the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, which is graduating its first class this year. “In China, we didn’t have degrees such as arts management or curatorial studies, so most of the museum directors were originally artists,” says Fan Di’an, who like many directors in China got his position through political appointment.” The artist/curator model is well-established, particularly in North America, and so the reaction to a similar model emerging (albeit under quite different circumstances) is one to keep an eye on.
  • If new media, Internet art and networked art are your thing, there’s lots of good reading at this page at the BAM website, with several downloadable documents detailing conversations and interviews with curators, artists and directors by Karen Annemie Verschooren. The interview with Christiane Paul, Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney, is particularly fascinating and candid in its description of the early days of exhibiting new media artwork in a prominent museum.
  • Thomas Krens is leaving the Guggenheim, and this act has sparked a lot of reflection on his years at the helm. Charlie Finch on artnet.com characterizes the influence of Krens on curatorial practice as “…turning everything into an art that was at once contemporary and exchangeable in ever increasing increments of value.” It’s a very critical standpoint that also claims that “…the land of Krens evoked the carnival and the circus. Whether showing Spanish painting gems, Aztec war toys, garments or bikes, Krens’ vision included the kitchen sink, the golden bidet and everything in between.” From that statement out of the USA, let’s jump (gently) across the pond for a moment. The new Director of the National Gallery, Nicholas Penny, made a statement saying that as far as he was concerned, the era of the big, sexy blockbuster is over, and Guardian writer Jonathan Jones discusses how the blockbuster itself is not to blame, but that one should blame “sloppy curating – curating that is addicted to short cuts, allergic to the years of research and negotiations it takes to put on a really good exhibition.” Food for thought.
  • Finally, the New York Times reports that “nine months after taking over, Jeffrey Weiss has resigned as director of the Dia Art Foundation, saying he had realized he was not cut out for the job.” Mr Weiss says: “It took me too far away from curatorial and scholarly work […] I had an idea that being director of Dia would be different because it is such a small place. […] My hope is to return to curatorial and scholarly work, but right now I’m taking a breath.” It’ll be interesting to see both who Dia hires next and what Mr Weiss does next, and serves as a point of reflection on where a curatorial career can be said to “terminate” — does a curator need to stay in jobs expressly about curating, and leave museum/gallery direction to those with deeper interests in business/administration?

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