2013 Art Talk

On February 28th SGFA, patron Datin Shalini Ganendra, hosted a Vision Culture Lecture by Kelly Gellatly, curator of Contemporary Art at the prestigious National Gallery of Victoria in Australia.

The stimulating and thought provoking lecture was entitled Curating Contemporary Art in the 21st Century. Kelly talked us through some of the challenges faced by curators in this field. Each stage of the lecture was supported by photos and images so the audience could better understand the issues involved. This report can only touch on a few of them.

One of the challenges is the conflict between the curator and the architect. Kelly showed us museum interiors that gave the curator great flexibility, such as the National Gallery of Victoria’s ( Federation Square) Melbourne. In contrast was the Guggenheim in New York. The Guggenheim is an iconic building but the spiral interior is potentially limiting for large pieces of installation art.

We were shown photos of an exhibition at the Tate Modern London called Tate Modern Slides. This was an interactive exhibition where visitors were invited to use the massive slides. This exhibition received a lot of press coverage but is it art? For the curator there has to be a balance between curating an exhibition which will not only attract visitors, maybe based on novelty, but will attract repeat visitors.

Another challenge is to counteract the idea of art as elitist. Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is famous for her interactive pieces such as Kusama’s World of Dots at the Queensland Art Gallery. Visitors were given a page of sticky dots with which they could cover anything in the all white Obliteration room. Queensland Art Gallery has been particularly successful in attracting young people into exhibitions at the NGV kid’s corner and in encouraging them to become creative.

Technology also plays an important role in contemporary art galleries. MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) in Hobart Tasmania is Australia’s largest private museum and probably, due to the nature of the exhibits, most controversial. However the technology whereby visitors are tracked and invited to respond as they walk through the galleries is innovative.

One final issue was the subject of funding. The Contemporary art market has now become a rewarding market for investors with works of art selling and then reselling at astronomical prices. National galleries which depend on funding from governments cannot possibly pay the prices that private individuals or organizations can. Therefore curators are very grateful to the private collectors who generously lend or donate works of art.

Great evening with great conversation and food. Thank you ESU!

Geraldine Chaplin/Nirmala Naidu