MODEM chose to highlight this particular article in order to investigate the role of the artist as a curator within the contemporary art world.
In this article Pac Pobric quotes the famous French painters Gustave Courbet and Jaques-Louis David as the first artists who rejected the officially recognized art institutions, in order to stage self-organized shows. If before this phenomenon was considered to be an avant-garde act of rebellion, today it has become a rather common fact, as the lines between artists and curators are often blurry. As reported by Pobric, this controversial role game has been a central topic of the Art Basel Miami Beach Conversation Program, held during the last edition of Miami Art Basel, on December 2014. In this context, the journalist highlights that artist-curated exhibitions are everywhere, from expansive biennials (in November, Christian Jankowski was named the curator of the forthcoming Manifesta 11); to commercial gallery shows (“Peter Blake: Slide Show”, at the Paul Stolper gallery in London, until January 10th, 2015, is organized by Blake himself); through to institutional exhibitions (the Museum of Modern Art in New York has had nine offerings in its “Artists Choice” series since 1989, the most recent edition organized by Trisha Donnelly in late 2012). Artists unlike Ellsworth Kelly and Glenn Ligon are even organizing shows of their own art, just as Courbet had done 160 years ago. To answer the question how did artist-curated shows become so widely accepted?, Pac Pobric finds a reason in the collapse of central art institutions in favor of a commonplace sensibility. Although all the curatorial work is subjective, Pobric reports the thought of Ann Temkin, the Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA, who said that “artist-organized exhibitions tend to be “clearly editorial, as opposed to reportorial”. It seems indeed that academic curators still face institutional constraints that artists can simply shrug away. Pobric stretches that even in a pluralist world, the idea of a curator-as-artist rubs some the wrong way. Indeed, some artists have actively fought the idea, defined by US art critic Dave Hickey as something completely foolish. Pobric concludes that the institutionalized artist-curator exhibition—and even the idea of the curator-as-artist—is not likely to disappear as artist-curators inherit Courbet’s legacy in a radically different world.