The World Goes Pop (2015), Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs (2014), and Paul Klee: Making Visible (2013). These are just a few of the high profile exhibitions that Dr. Flavia Frigeri has co-curated at the Tate Modern. As the Course Leader for the Art Museums, Galleries and Curating Semester Program at Sotheby’s Institute-London, Flavia is able to share this professional expertise with her students. We recently sat down with her to discuss her tips for new curators, how to work with living artists, and what it takes to curate a blockbuster show.
How does the idea for a new exhibition come about? Where do you get your inspiration?
Ideas for exhibitions come about in many different ways and usually it takes time for an idea to develop into an actual project. Usually you’ll come across the seed of an idea when you least expect it. For instance, while working on a show you could come across a piece of information that suddenly opens things up onto the next project. Conversely, when reading, writing or visiting other shows there might be an object, a word, a theme or an artist that resonate with you to such an extent that you decide to build a show out of it. So all in all there is no specific rule and the inspiration can really come at any time.
After inspiration strikes, what are the first steps you take towards curating a show?
The first step would be to write an exhibition proposal in which you outline the theme of the show. Along with this one generally prepares a so-called checklist, which features works which ideally you would like to include in your exhibition. And then last but not least you approach a museum or gallery with your idea and hope for the best.
What are the challenges of curating shows that focus on one artist (Matisse: The Cut-Outs) vs multi-artist shows (The World Goes Pop)?
Monographic exhibitions vs. group shows can be challenging in very different ways. In a monographic exhibition you are casting the spotlight on a single artist and trying to go in depth on a specific facet of their oeuvre or on a specific moment of their career. This means that the selection of works must be very tight and to the point. Conversely, a group exhibition requires a very different set up. For a start you are bringing together a group of artists, each with their own specificities. Thus, you need to ensure that the originality of each artist is maintained and doesn’t get lost. Secondly, it must be apparent to an audience visiting the show why you have selected these artists and what is your aim in bringing them all together. In other words you must ask yourself, what can this selection tell us about a specific moment or story?
How do you approach living artists? How closely do you work with them?
When you organise a show which features one or more living artists then the process takes more the form of a dialogue. You would usually work quite closely with them and their representatives on the selection of the works and on their placement in the exhibition. One artist that I particularly enjoyed working with is the Argentinean Amalia Pica.
What is you favorite aspect in the process?
There are many aspects of the process which I enjoy, but perhaps my favorite one would be putting together the checklist. I really enjoy going through existing catalogues and books in order to assemble my ideal list of works. Practically, this often entails a fair amount of detective work. In fact, it is not a given that the location of the works is immediately available and a lot of work often goes into finding where a particular work of art is.