Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Too many curators spoil the wrath

Raoul Hausmann, The Art Critic, 1919-20, Photomontage, The Tate, London.

Regular readers would already have noticed I have 'issues' with curators, and being curated. After 45 years of looking at, studying, thinking about, and occasionally making art, I think I have a pretty good idea what work of mine should be seen, how it should be presented, and to whom. Therefore I now blog where I have control over these factors. I don't need a curator. However these days it is hard to go anywhere in the art world without seeing the result of curatorial input. Do curators add value to the art experience, or are they stifling it?

I don't want to tar all curators with the same brush. There are curators who bring scholarship and innovation to the process. One example is Simon Gregg at the Gippsland Art Gallery, who in a recent exhibition Dreamweavers showed he could draw together diverse artists across continents and decades who might not have seen the links between their work, and present it all in an intelligent fashion. He also has the capacity to write about it in a way that is easily understood. (More about this show later).

I find I am not the only person considering the curatorial dilemma at the moment. How have we reached a stage where the curator is more important than the artist? And where one can do a curatorial course without having a prerequisite understanding and knowledge of art history? Well, certainly the arts organisations have not helped in their penchant for bringing in overseas curators, directors, conductors, principles, etc. at the expense of local talent. The grass is always greener syndrome. Only trouble is these people have to waste time learning who the local talent is, and then bow to corporate sponsorship which often results in treading a very conservative path and one that can exclude anyone outside the establishment scene.

In the latest issue of Broadsheet Contemporary Visual Art + Culture Vol 41.1, Brad Buckley and John Conomos (Associate Dean & Associate Professor at the Sydney College of the Arts) have written a polemic called 'The Delinquent Curator: or how curators shafted Australian art'. In it they say:
And yet who today, among our curators, is looking, and is not strictly governed by a non-risk taking, self -congratulatory and self-perpetuating ethic of more of the same? After all, looking should be one of the cardinal points of our compass of artistic creation, exhibition and understanding...
Sadly, what we have locally is a proliferation of curators who wish to be media circus stars and celebrities, and who are lost in the contemporary art scene's aesthetic of razzmatazz and the spectacle.

No wonder many artists today, myself included, are choosing to turn their backs on the traditional gallery, museum, it's who you know, brown-nosing, artist as performer scene and exhibit in public places where artistic integrity can be maintained. Curators take note...the white cube may be suddenly empty.

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