Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pick and choose

One of the big questions at the moment is: what do curators do? Not a bad question and one that has sent European uber-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist into a spasm of interviewing and publishing. Where he has got so far is that contemporary curation is about connecting people and ideas.

If you want a good example of how inventive curators can be with those connections, step over to the City Gallery in Wellington. As you will know if you have followed OTN, the City Gallery’s director Paula Savage was forced, against her better judgement, into taking on the Wellington City collection and part of the deal was the obligation to show it on a regular basis in the new downstairs gallery aka the Hancock. 

Trouble is, the City collection is a dog (you can see a complete-ish list here). The City Gallery prides itself on being “at the forefront of contemporary art,” but this stuff never was and never will be. So what’s to be done? Enter Aaron Lister and the small exhibition he has curated Colour/Field.

Making exhibitions out of the City collection is getting tougher as the ‘better’ works are quickly baggsed. If your show is number three or number four in line the pickings are lean indeed. Aaron Lister's strategy was to push the only-works-from-the-collection requirement. He ‘highlighted’ one work (a small Elizabeth Thomson) and and, on the opposite wall connected it with a large work commissioned by the Tauranga Art Gallery. Smart idea and the introduction (there have already been some wall works as part of other exhibitions) of wall works as a formal part of the Wellington City collection hangs may help save the day.