This online lecture was focused on making us think about our own positions in relation to the contemporary art world and consider our place in terms of practice. Caroline Wright began by asking questions about our needs. Specifically why we need to make a career out of our art practice. She suggested some reasons for this as starting points. She then moved on more specifically to ask where we are now and where we would like to be in a few years time.
Galleries and Museums.
Wright first made us consider a varied selection of established art galleries and museums mainly from the UK but also New York and Europe (the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the Guggenheim in Bilbao). She did this in order for us to consider what the main factors are in how work is seen. She asked us to question: the meaning the gallery gives the work; the audience; the function of the museum and the political agenda of the organisation. These ranged from the cultural status of wealth and power of the National Gallery to the ‘Art Experience’ of shopping and eating at the Tate Modern. It was also interesting to consider the edutainment angle where both education and entertainment were considered function of some spaces. The other main element of this section of the lecture was how the aesthetic experience begins with the architecture with examples such as the Guggenheim in both NYC and Bilbao. Many other examples immediately spring to mind such as the Herzog and de Meuron Caixa forum in Madrid the same architects who transformed a disused power station into Tate Modern lifted up an abandoned electricity generator in front of the Prado and transformed it into a gallery. This recycling of abandoned buildings into arts spaces is also seen in Madrid’s Matadero (ex-slaughter house) and many other examples from around the world.
Wright then took us through all the considerations that curating an exhibition entails. A complicated flow chart which detailed all the steps. Importantly she stressed that curators, like artists, need to be aware of what is happening in contemporary art.
Wright then looked at other ways of showing artwork. From the 1989 Guerilla Girls posters to the 4th plinth in London’s Trafalgar square, she talked about site specific work, temporarily sited work and some of the controversy surrounding them. Specifically she posed some very interesting questions. I found the position of the audience for Andy Goldsworthy’s work – which is so temporary the majority of us only see it in illustrated books or Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty which is only visible from the air very compelling issues. The ethical question of Franko B’s performances in which we as audience are complicit with his pain is also one I should like to return to. After quickly considering the varying nature of Public Art work which is generally publicly funded and openly displayed we moved onto art fairs. Starting with the Venice Bienale and then looking at Frieze in London. We were made to see them as enormously varied but as commercial enterprises. Unlike many of the above commissions these are for commercial galleries and their artists to sell work.
We could also consider artist run spaces and the streets as sites, both of which I find interesting.
From the Turner Prize to open entry competitions we considered the rewards of being shortlisted or winning some of these prizes. For example the Turner Prize in addition to money and giving the shortlisted artists an exhibition in London’s Tate could be seen as leading to a certain celebrity status in some cases as it has so often courted controversy. Wright then suggested Competitions which give student prizes such as John Moore’s and Beck Futures and that we can consider the ones appropriate to our practice.
I shall deal with the questions raised in a later post.