Monday, September 06, 2010

Dream curators

Te Papa is on the hunt for a new curator of contemporary art to replace Charlotte Huddleston. Why is that? One of the main roles curators play in art museums is to create exhibitions (they also recommend work for purchase but that's another tale) something that is all but impossible to do in Our Place. Why? Because there is no available temporary exhibition space. 

When the Visa Platinum Gallery is claimed by the visual arts rather than remnants of Pompeii or dinosaurs, it's most often reserved for Euro-centric blockbusters like the forthcoming European Masters: 19th–20th century art from the Städel Museum. Then, when an imported NZ Contemp show (Venice 2009) did get booked in recently, the only way they could find space was by removing contemporary works from the permanent collection displays. 

Traditionally curators also research and write. From the public output listed in Te Papa's annual report, you can’t accuse them of being chained to their word processors. Apart from the Rita Angus catalogue and, the editor excepted, short pieces in the permanent collection publication Art in Te Papa, there has been very little serious writing seen from the art curators. So what do they all do? 

Since Te Papa opened in 1998 it has generated fewer than ten (certainly we can only remember five: Hotere, Angus, Darragh, Dream Collectors, and Art of Te Papa but we’ll add Brian Brake who's coming up and throw in another four for good measure) serious, curated art exhibitions with catalogues. So you've got to ask why do we need five curators for that?