Thursday, 23 April 2009

Thought from Yorkshire Sculpture Park #1: we are not all curators now

Early this month I spent two days in Yorkshire Sculpture Park to walk the last five years out of my system, and talk to curators about what they do. The curators described the process as 'just project management', but this underplays the role's uniqueness and value.

The long lead in times seem extraordinary, but gives a veneer of detailed long term planning that hides the usual story of last minute activity, decision making and haggling.

Curators could teach civil servants something about project management, partnership building and, above all, how trust conquers all. They have to trust the artist, whilst being assertive about their knowledge, especially of the space.
I was reminded of a Clore discussion about curation after seeing the war and medicine exhibition at the Wellcome Trust. People were moving towards the 'we are all curators now' position; "In editing a magazine, I curate the space of those pages". I silently disagreed. Curation has a specific meaning and value which needs to be learnt from rather than colonised.
Noguchi was the YSP's current star. Told chronologically, the final room was dominated by huge blocks of stone. According the Claire Lilley (the head of programmes) all sculptors turn to stone, or at least wood, in their dotage. Even Damien Hurst will move that way one day. An obvious quest for immortality?

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