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Michelle Kasprzak's views on contemporary art curating

Pick 'N Mix #39

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Wednesday, June 30. 2010 • Category: Pick 'N Mix

- David Barrie recently gave a thought-provoking lecture entitled "A Bigger Picture: why contemporary art curators need to get out more". He describes why a heritage-oriented mindset can result in constrained collections, noting that: "Despite our long colonial history and our rich links with countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean [...] visitors to museums and galleries in the UK have remarkably few opportunities to see art that is being produced in countries that lie outside the narrow confines of the so-called 'international contemporary art world'." He also skewers the myopic tendencies of some curators who "... neglect art that does not fit comfortably into their intellectual categories". He calls for curators to "get out more", escape the bonds of insularity, and be brave by broadening their own horizons. The text is simultaneously a call to action and an examination of conscience.

- A great interview with Carolee Thea by Richard J. Goldstein that reveals some of her thoughts on the biennial ("an exhibition structure beyond itself, an event that allows for very difficult subject matter"; "Its function, as defined by planners and curators, is to add intellectual capital"; "a component in spreading visual literacy"; etc) and the art market ("artists and curators are unavoidably affected by the onslaught of art fairs and consumerism"). (Thea's recent book of interviews with prominent curators, On Curating: Interviews with Ten International Curators also looks quite good.)

- "I'm not against the market. It's just that I'm against the way the market is overdetermining the art complex at the moment," Vasif Kortun says. "At the same time, we know full well that we provide almost a recruitment ground or a research and progress for the market at the same time. It would be quite ridiculous to say that the biennale is completely alien and independent of the market and its interests."

- Francesco Bonami once said "In theory now you could curate a whole Venice Biennale using only the Internet". The Guggenheim takes a few steps in that direction with YouTube Play, a contest to find the best online video works. Submitted videos will be assessed by a jury and the winners will be exhibited at Guggenheim Museums around the world, and of course, on YouTube.

- An article by Janine Armin on the New York Times articulates the current precarious position freelance curators find themselves in, and identifies the growth of biennials as a particular bright spot in opportunities for freelancers. I found Nicola Trezzi's article describing the growth of artist-curated exhibitions in FlashArt a good complement to Armin's article. While Armin's article quoted established curators explaining why freelancers are still very much necessary (even if it is difficult to be one), Trezzi's article can be viewed as taking those statements even further, reminding us of the multiplicity of reasons why or how someone would curate an exhibition, how it's a creative act in itself, and the value of the artist-curator viewpoint.

Pick 'N Mix - September 2007

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, September 1. 2007 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to the September edition of Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of bite-sized items that have caught my eye recently.
  • An interesting article about the curating scene in Singapore recently appeared online. In it, Ahmad Mashadi notes that the curator's role has become more complex, becoming implicated in marketing and sponsorship, where previously it might have been more focused on "research, growth and display" of a museum's collection. The article also discusses the emerging trend of the artist-curator in Singapore.

  • Jerry Saltz writes an excellent article on the alchemy of curating, in which he makes several bold (but astute) statements:
    "...curating is becoming less of a dark art and more of a science or profession."
    "The alchemy of good curating amounts to this: sometimes placing one work of art near another makes one and one equal three."
    "...one of the first rules of curating should be "Stop Making Sense."'
    The article goes on to dissect the curatorial strategies and pitfalls in the big three: Documenta, Venice Biennale, and Münster Sculpture Project.

  • It's rare that one has occasion to read a line like this: "No, the most interesting part of the show is that excruciating pile of false, overweening enthusiasms that make up that curatorial statement, not for what they say, necessarily, but for what they assume." In Artfag's "Toronto Manifesto", we get these kinds of critical, nearly brutal, statements and so much more. If you have anything invested in the Toronto art scene, this piece will certainly interest you; if you don't, it's worth a read anyway, as many of the observations made in this manifesto are universally applicable - such as this note on the importance of recently-graduated artists: "gallerists in New York and Los Angeles keep a keen eye on the goings on of the graduate students that are pumped out every year. Any art scene needs a constant supply of fresh blood, and most gallerists and buyers know exactly where to find it." (Discovered via Sally McKay's blog.)
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