Artist-Curator Interviews


Part One: The Principles

“I don’t think it’s about finding a new approach, but about finding a voice as a curator. If you’re a practising artist you bring a unique perspective as a maker, so it’s important to define what that is and how it can be developed as a curatorial skill, in other words – how do you convey what your ethos / passion / line of enquiry is in your practice through your curatorial work.”

“As a curator my multiple role is as an impresario, a producer and an editor – an individual with a vision and a conviction to match, shaped by my own experience as an artist. My skill is to bring together the right voices (be they academic, sonic or visual) at a given moment and shape them into a coherent conversation. I must finely balance my hunger and excitement to create this dialogue with others, with the patience and sensitivity to let ideas ferment and mature.” ──Alex Julyan



“It starts with either a unifying theme (such as danger) or a particular medium (such as a survey exhibition of contemporary collage). The standard of work needs to be international, however, all of the artists do not already need to be established to that level, it is more about the quality and freshness of the work and how the pieces by each artist will play with each other, both on a conceptual level and through the visual language. The exhibition should be challenging and approach the subject matter with as many different perspectives as possible, therefore the pool of artists will be as diverse as possible to cross-pollinate various social, political and cultural backgrounds”. ──Brendan Jamison


“The over-arching principle for me is quality of work and how much the work has answered the brief. Having curated group shows which could involve a large number of artists, there has to be a certain cohesion to the overall look of the exhibition. This would be nearly impossible (and uninteresting) to do in terms of materiality and execution. Having a theme/text/aim for artists to respond to makes both the selection of work an easier process and creates linkages and relationships between the exhibited works. Otherwise the exhibition can end up being a mish-mash of work which has nothing to say in terms of conversations between the artwork and the audience.”──Gail Ritchie



Part Two: The Path to Curation

“From a very young age I had been looking at exhibitions of all kinds and had unknowingly developed a visual sensibility beyond the bounds of my own work and a strong sense of audience. As my work matured and changed (from painting to sculpture to site-specific) I experienced different aspects of the art machine and like many artists I looked for ways to take more control over the way my work was experienced by others.”

“我從很小的時候就已經開始去各類展覽參觀,潛移默化中培養了對他人作品審美的敏感性和很強的觀眾意識。從繪畫到雕塑再到定點作品, 隨著自己作品的不斷成熟和變化,我體驗了藝術的多個層面。跟許多同行一樣,我也尋求另一種方式更多地把控觀眾對作品的體驗。”

“When the more tenacious of us sought out spaces for hire in Central London and put together exhibitions to the best of our abilities (something that is happening once again in a different form). This was a period when there was virtually no support given in art schools to the business end of art or outside opportunities and we were truly learning on the hoof. I’m not sure that we thought of it as anything as high powered as curating at the time, but looking back this is how I cut my teeth”. ──Alex Julyan


“Curation seemed to evolve naturally from my own sculpture practice of creating installations in entire galleries, with a fine-tuning of spatial awareness and the complementary arrangement of different elements.”──Brendan Jamison


“Curating art shows is based on the same creativity which is the main key to how artists perceive the world. An art show curated by an artist-curator often has got a unique theme with very wide understanding of aspects inspired by the personal interests which are usually the base for creating artefacts.” ──Kasia Kujawska-Murphy



Part Three: Difficulties

“The most difficult aspect is communicating my vision for a show to the host museum or gallery, and this usually manifests itself in a scale model of the exhibition space, coupled with a text outlining why the show is so appropriate for the venue and how it will attract new audiences.”──Brendan Jamison


“I have more-or less run out of energy for trying to make projects through any other means than commission. I have 30 years’ experience and am still largely very underpaid, the arts landscape has changed dramatically, it’s now over-bureaucratised, and outcome-driven, which has accelerated the erosion of trust. Value is much spoken about in relation to outcome and benefits, but the value of the creator often overlooked or marginalised.  Trust allows artists to be creative and do what they do best, whether it’s making work or curating, this is particularly irksome when being managed by commissioners with much less experience than myself. I’ve actually found working with small organisations to be the most rewarding because they are freer to experiment and can respond quickly to ideas, they are also often, quite openly on a learning curve and one can actually mentor alongside the delivery of a project.”──Alex Julyan


“In terms of curating exhibitions, or perhaps being part of a selection panel, it is always difficult to choose between selected and non-selected work. This is even more difficult if the submissions include work from other artists whom one might know, personally or professionally. Selecting work is often a qualitative, subjective process and as a curator you may have a vision for the overall look of an exhibition. For this reason, some parameters are useful. If work is too big/too small/ does not respond to/fit the brief then selection becomes a little easier. Outside of the selection process – logistics and finances are always difficult.”──Gail Ritchie





Part Four: The Artist and the Public

“The public are the biggest audience, the zone beyond the regular art audience and art critics. It is key to engage the public through press interviews, walk-around gallery talks, workshops, and where possible, collaborative artworks that invite every visitor to the exhibition an opportunity to participate, irrespective of age. It is extremely important to convey a warm and positive aura when dealing with the public and all communication should be in a clear and concise fashion.”

“I detest art-speak waffle where curators write an exhibition blurb that is so generalised it could actually be applied to 1,000 exhibitions around the world at any given moment. It is more important to be specific about what makes the exhibition unique and to connect with the public through clear language that complements the specific aesthetics and themes of the show. All communication should be conducted with an educational mindset.” ──Brendan Jamison



“The public are paramount. I’ve worked for many years in gallery learning & interpretation as well as other forms of public engagement. As an artist I work in gallery and performance contexts, these have all informed the way I work with audiences. If curating for public consumption it’s vital to define the audience you are aiming for and to have them in your consciousness, after all without an audience we are nothing. I visit a lot of diverse cultural events and am always audience-aware – what are audiences responding to and what are they alienated by (that includes oneself).


“Inflated art-language only serves to re-enforce a hierarchy and doesn’t engage audiences. I feel very strongly about this. The best communicators in any field can communicate and articulate complex ideas in simple terms.”── Alex Julyan


“The public are not just passive viewers but can also play a participatory role. They can co-create meaning in a work of art by sharing their own insights and responses – whether positive or negative – or they could take up some form of creative activity themselves.” ──Gail Ritchie





Part Five: Motivation

“I started being interesting in organising exhibitions, partly to explore the figure and role of the curator, but mostly to engage in collaborative projects and social practice.For this reason, my approach to curating has been to avoid what was “typical” about it: such as choosing artists, artworks and topics according to a highly coherent scheme that is meant to prove a point or define a standard or frame a certain topic.


“I never really considered myself a curator in a specific sense, because the way I work and function with other people, artworks and concepts is much more similar to that of a situationist : I define an area of interest, precise or broad, I chose or I am given a physical location which I study and I contact people whose work can potentially trigger something unexpected. If these people are interested to collaborate, I make sure they have enough physical and mental space to develop their ideas and I try to see if these ideas can be influenced and transformed by mutual interaction. I do not influence the final outcome, I try just to ‘prepare’ the ground for something to happen.”──Alessandro Rolandi


“My duty of care is to facilitate the exhibition, to the best of my ability, and part of that involves being aware of not prioritizing my own work where it is included in the overall exhibition. Curating requires an objective approach, where each artist, work, and staging is given equal and considered attention, to create a cohesive exhibition that is inclusive for both the participants and the audience.”──Mary Mackey


“Previously, I had experience in either selecting work for projects or exhibitions during various art related employments. I also had experience of as an artist in putting forward my own proposals for curated exhibitions – mostly without success. A Spanish artist, Ima Pico, joined our studios and was very pro-active in initiating artist led projects and we were both frustrated with the limited opportunities to show work in Northern Ireland. We founded a non-profit organisation called Green Dog Arts and our remit was to look for exhibition opportunities for artists to show their work outside of Northern Ireland. Over a period of several years we took the work of North Irish artists to venues in Mexico, USA, Japan and Spain. I had no real thoughts about curating beforehand other than a consideration of the premise that it would be interesting to show work by both established and emerging artists alongside in each other and in that way help the professional development of emerging artists.“ ──Gail Ritchie

“我之前做過各種藝術相關的工作,為項目或展覽甄選作品。也曾以藝術家的身份申請參展,不過經常申請失敗。西班牙藝術家艾瑪·皮克(Ima Pico)加入我們工作室後,非常積極地推動以藝術家為主導的項目,但令我們無奈的是在北愛爾蘭能夠展示作品的機會太少。因此,我們隨後成立了名為‘綠犬藝術’的非盈利性機構,為北愛爾蘭的藝術家們尋找在國外參展的機會。幾年的時間內,北愛爾蘭得藝術家作品已經在墨西哥、美國、日本和西班牙等地區得到展示。之前我對策展也並沒有特別的想法,只是希望找個平臺讓新老藝術家同臺參展,也是對新興藝術家的職業生涯提供幫助。”——蓋爾·裏奇


Heartfelt thanks to all the artist curators who contributed their responses: Brendan Jamison, Alex Julyan, Kasia Kujawska-Murphy, Mary Mackey, Gail Ritchie, Alessandro Rolandi, Niamh Cunningham and to those I have quoted: Matthew Nevin, Darryl Banks, Mary Sherman, Gavin Wade, Antonin Vidokle.


Find Out More:
Darryl Banks:
Niamh Cunningham:
Brendan Jamison:
Alex Julyan:
Mary Mackey:
Matthew Nevin:
Alessandro Rolandi:
Gail Ritchie:
Mary Sherman:
Antonin Vidokle:
Gavin Wade:


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