On Thursday 28th July John Stokes, Arts Manager at Rheged, Jo Bramley-Wright, Project Coordinator for C-Art, and a group of 4 young curators made their way down to London to prepare for the selection of the Cumbrian Artist of the Year Exhibition. Funded by Arts Council England, alongside the Sculpture Trail that will take place at the Rheged Centre in September, the premise of the day was to gain an insight into the processes around curation specifically at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.
The group of Young Curators were selected, from applicants aged 16-24 yrs from Cumbria, the previous week having applied to the scheme earlier in the year by attending an interview. 5 individuals were selected from the 16 applicants from across Cumbria at varying stages in their education and artistic career.
Starting at the Anthony Gormley exhibition at Alan Cristea Gallery they viewed his current exhibition of new work ‘Cast’. This was an opportunity for the group to experience a high end commercial gallery with a curators eye. The work mimicked its opposing wall, pairing the physical, organic forms of his crude oil and petroleum jelly Body Prints with the geometric shapes of his woodblocks. From here a quick visit to the Hauser & Wirth Gallery to see the work of Argentine artist Guillermo Kuitca with his unique cubistoid style paintings. Both galleries presented work that the Young Curators felt portrayed the process as much as the outcome, with a single artist represented.
Our highlight destination, the Royal Academy, followed and commenced with a look behind the scenes at the Royal Academy Schools guided by Eliza Bonham Carter, Head of Royal Academy Schools. High ceilings, natural light and oozing creativity this historic art school offered an insight into the processes behind future artists. Seeing the modern technology suite above the 1850’s print press in the print room showed the materials at an artists disposal in 2016.
Next door to the Schools, visiting the David Hockney exhibition proved busy and divisive; ‘What is the point in the exhibition?’ A question posed post exhibition discussion by one of the young curators. ’82 portraits and a still life’ showed a new phase Hockney’s work, in a room with walls painted a deep red the paintings glowed with their vibrant, bold and expressive content.
Moving on to the 1100 works of the Summer exhibition, the Young Curators moved through the various curated galleries taking in this ‘salon hung’ style of exhibition offering a multitude of disciplines, content and concepts. An overwhelming amount or work to take in, and a scale unique to this annual exhibition. Eliza invited the group to the Academician’s Room for drinks and debate leading a discussion on the two exhibitions. Hockney’s work offered a fairly formulaic style of curation, with the Young Curators questioning the red walls, the large titles and the quick style of painting. In contrast, the Summer Exhibition created a good discussion around placement of work, and what they felt worked, didn’t work, art they enjoyed and didn’t, and why it might have been selected and chosen for a certain gallery space. Eliza’s probing questions forced the group to consider a number of aspects and also gave an insight into the history of the exhibition and the selection processes involved.
A quick visit to the White Cube gallery offered further antidote to the busy rooms of the RA, with an exhibition of work by contemporary Chinese painters.
Following this trip the selection day will be held in the middle of August when the young curators will be joined by Eliza Bonham Carter, having already offered her expertise, and also Nick Rogers from Lakeland Arts. Once the work has been selected the Young Curators will be invited to the install of the exhibition having seen the full process of open exhibitions in action.