Monday, November 28, 2011

Show time

Why don’t more artists get to curate exhibitions? Many of them have the same academic qualifications as most curators and most of them have a distinctive take on the visual possibilities of the exhibition. If you want a textbook example, visit the exhibition curated by Eve Armstrong at Michael Lett in Auckland of her sculpture with Gretchen Albrecht’s paintings. Armstrong is right on pitch with tone and colour and brings Albrecht’s work into a focus it hasn’t received for over a decade. It’s hard to imagine an institutional curator having the nerve to pitch the transition between Albrecht’s smoky stained canvas Tongue and Armstrong’s scoria and furnishing based sculptural collage.

Over the years we have posted on a number of outstanding exhibitions that have set an artist’s vision and sensibility at their core. The juxtapositions, visual acrobatics and ideas about presentation that artists can bring to exhibitions are often the very things that fall victim to institutional politics and indifference to the viewer experience. History shows that most great curators have had artist friends as their visual mentors and used studio visits for an intellectual shake-up. It’s a great tradition. How about art museums enticing more artists into their exhibition making as devisers, curators and designers? Good for inventiveness, good for cut-through, good for audiences.