German born curator and writer Assoc. Prof. Dr. Marcus Graf who lives and works in Istanbul reveals his thoughts on curators and curating.
It seems there is a need for curators even in solo shows lately? What is your point of view on the subject, do you think this is necessary? Why so?
In general, I do not think that it is ultimately necessary to have a curator at a solo-show, as I believe that an artist is capable to set up his/ her own works in the best way. Of course, consulting can happen, but curatorial work is different. A curatorial work at a solo-show makes only sense if the curator is deeply involved in the design, organization and set-up of the show. A curator is an exhibition expert. An artist is an art-production-expert. In some cases, the artist can gain information and power from the curator’s expertise in order to strengthen his/ her show.
What is the role of the curator in the triangle of “artist – gallerist – curator”?
I believe that a curator is a “bridge-maker” between various people and institutions. He can negotiate and mediate between artist and gallerist. In most cases, the artist asks for the collaboration with a curator and the gallery owner then has to set up the financial and institutional framework. In my personal view and experience, I work closely with and for the artist, and are not so much engaged in the work of the gallery. I did just a few works for an artist in a gallery show, and it was always on the request of the artist.
How does and how must a curator balance this triangle?
I believe in the freedom of the individual and the meaning of expertise. My field of expertise is the design, organization and installation of art exhibitions. In this sense, I try to be as close as necessary, and at the same time as distanced possible to the various parties of my profession in order to focus on the only thing that counts: The Job!
While curating a solo show if not a group show, how does the curator collaborate with the artist and gallerist? do they work together or is the curator the only decision maker?
It is a collaboration between artist, curator and gallery. Though, the relation between artist and curator is closer, as it starts mostly earlier, and continues over a period of several months. Also, mostly the artist asks the curator for support and corporation, and gets then the approval of the gallery. In the end, both artist and curator work together for setting up the best possible for the show at the gallery. In the end, it has to be a win-win situation for all parties.
The gallery system is starting to malfunction all over the world and it is said to have to go through a reform. Will this distance towards galleries give more responsibility to the curators?
I see the main role of the curatorial practice in non-profit exhibition models like museums, biennials and exhibition spaces, where pressing issues are discussed. At the gallery, curators can only function as supporting consultants. In the end, it is the gallery owner who sets up the conceptual and formal identity of his space.
How do you see the future of curating in the art system?
I believe that people will always love to go to spaces to experience art. Otherwise, catalogues and jpgs would be enough. I do not think so. In order to increase the power of this experience, you need exhibition experts. So, a curator is needed. Besides this general need for the curatorial practice, it becomes obvious that our fragmented and transdisciplinary art world is too diffuse to be grasp as a whole. The Mega-Curator-Model a la Szeeman of Obrist is over I guess, as no individual can be held responsible for being able to handle large-scale exhibitions alone. We all long for stars and icons of course, but it is time to realize that no one can alone handle exhibitions with 100 artists on his/ her own. This is the reason, why we see so many curator-team lead exhibitions, biennials and documentas lately. Besides this, the interaction of art, design, architecture, education, and social science, as well as politics and economics makes collaboration and interaction between various experts necessary.