Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The curator director

When Peter Tomory became director of the Auckland Art Gallery back in 1956 he came to the job as a curator and exhibition maker. Tomory not only curated exhibitions he helped shape the way we see New Zealand art through his development of the Gallery’s collection. More recently the AAG directors have tended to leave curating alone with the last curatorial director being Rodney Wilson back in the eighties.

Nowadays directors of large institutions are likely to be administrators and even directors like Jenny Harper who come from a curatorial background rarely have the time to make their own exhibitions. Many others, like Cam McCracken of the Dunedin Art Gallery, see the job as creating a context in which curators can do their best work. One effect of this though is that we usually have only a vague idea of what our institutional leaders favour or value in their own collections. To address that a director’s choice show every now and then would be a great addition to any of our art museum programmes.

The new director of the Auckland Art Gallery Rhana Devenport has an interesting take on all this. We've already noted that she has two proposals in for the Venice Biennale (we understand they are for Lisa Reihana and Fiona Pardington - a couple of readers (thanks D and G) have since suggested the second proposal is for Alex Montieth who Devenport showed at the G-B - and now she has made another curatorial flourish this time on line. “To date my curatorial work has concentrated on contemporary practice, however, I have a fascination for historical art artworks and the sense of present wonder they evoke”. You can see Devenport’s selection of 23 works (from the AAG collection and elsewhere) along with her commentary here on Google Art Project.