Lessons from Curatorial Practice Week 6. Do not get attached.
1) Do not get attached to your artist
I keep thinking about the movie, The Double. In the movie, a young FBI agent named Ben Geary becomes so engrossed in hunting a criminal that it becomes an obsession. Ben learns everything about the criminal; his political stance, his killing tactics, his list of victims…what he eats for breakfast. Ben desperately wants to understand the criminal’s thoughts and desires. He even begins to mimic some of the criminal’s habits. What does this have to do with curating? In a hyperbolic way, Ben and the criminal are a metaphor for a curator and the artist.
This week, each student in my class showed images from their artist’s work. While we are all impressed by the amazing collection of artists, it is evident that the 16 artists will not meld into a succinct show. This means that some of us must let go of our artists (a task more easily said than done). Like Ben Geary, we have been studying our artists for weeks. Viewing image after image. Reading about their artistic process. Researching the evolution of their work. Emailing back and forth with the artist to exchange ideas and negotiate terms. Now we have to resign ourselves to the fact that our artist may not be part of the exhibition.While Ben Geary’s inability to find the criminal would mean a failed mission, this is simply the life of a curator. Curators develop deep relationships with artists and many times they are forced to let them go.
2) Do not get attached to a specific vision for your exhibition
I am currently on my 3rd set of images for the exhibition. What do I mean? First, Winston Wachter Gallery (the gallery that represents Ethan Murrow) offered 3 drawings from my the Zero Sum Pilot series of his work [my favorite series]. Unfortunately, the 3 pieces do not tell the complete story of the collection. I felt that Murrrow would be better represented by more works from a different series. This led me to 5 pieces from the series, Doppler Doppelganger. The gallery agreed to send them over. Perfect!…. not exactly. Murrow has become a great success and his works are selling left and right. The gallery has since rescinded the offer. So now I have been offered 3 original prints from some of his newest works. While I would rather display the drawings themselves, prints are not a bad option (and well…they are much cheaper to ship). Anyway, the moral of the story is to stay flexible.
3) Do not get attached to style
This lesson is a fun side-note. On Thursday, I went to meet with Bruce Wick, the Katzen Arts Museum’s Chief Preparator and Registrar, to discuss the installation of Murrow’s works. Bruce was wearing what are probably the coolest set of glasses that I have seen in a while. When I think back, each time that I have met with Bruce he has been wearing a unique set of glasses. Therefore, lesson number 3 is to switch it up. Working in the art world allows you to reinvent yourself constantly. I think the key to Bruce’s reinvention is that the change of his frames is subtle. While other aspects of his style remain, his frames change in a drastic way. It is a small hint to the world that he is super creative and visual.