Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

I just arrived home from a mind-blowing trip to Europe where i attended my first major international art fair (ArtBasel), my second Documenta and my first international art conference as a professional (rather than an organiser!)

View over Umbria at sunset

I found ARCA – the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art – during a random hunt for an overseas postgraduate degree. ARCA run a Postgraduate Certificate in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection in the European summer. As amazing as it sounded, the cost and the length of the program (three months), prohibited me from pursuing it further.

Instead i had to settle for the annual conference, which was being held for the fourth time during the postgraduate program, to allow the students the opportunity to network with, and learn from, the gathered art crime experts from around the world. The festivities took place 23-24 June, in Amelia, Umbria in Italy, a small medieval town about 40 mins from Roma.  

Jason Felch’s Chasing Aphrodite

On the day of the conference, the Italian transport system failed me on route, and i found myself stranded at Orte station, a good 20 min drive Amelia. Luckily the conference organisers were on the ball and rather than have to figure our the Italian taxi system, a car was dispatched for my rescue.

After chatting to other stranded international attendee in the car, i realised it may not have been my esteemed presence that warranted the car, but my fellow passenger, who i learned was Jason Felch, an LA Time reporter.

Mr. Felch was the brains behind the revelations that the Getty was willing buying looted objects for its collection. This made him somewhat of a celebrity amongst the archaeologists in the audience. His book on the topic, Chasing Aphrodite, co-authored with Ralph Frammolino, details the case and he was in Amelia to receive a prize for his work on the Getty.

The program over the three days covered art forgery, archeology and looting. You can check out the program here.

I found the majority of the presentations exciting and interesting, having never studied looting or art theft in detail. I took copious notes and have already ordered Jason’s book, as well as number of others on the topic!

On the Sunday, the session i was waiting for on art forgery came around. Australia was represented by two criminologists, Saskia Hufnagel & Duncan Chappell. They gave an overview of a number of high-profile art forgery cases, both in Australia and overseas. I had been hoping for more presentations on art forgery, as the conference had a strong bias toward archaeology, rather than forgery. This is now serving as my motivation to present at the next one!

Attendees at the Conference

Being a baby researcher in the area, i was in awe of the experts in the field, but i can already see some holes in the current academia  For a start, Saskia and Duncan are coming at the problem from the perspective of criminologists. Whilst this theoretical framework is integral to the bigger picture solution, engaging art curators and art historians’ knowledge and experience with dealers, artists and buyers, is also needed. In fact, the whole conference consisted mostly of lawyers, criminologists, archaeologists, police and academics. I was one of the only art curators or art professionals in the room. This is a long-term problem for this conversation, and i did note a subtle hostility toward the rank of museum director/curator. Those misgivings aside, the attendees were passionate and pro-active about their respective causes.

Overall I found the conference far too short and i am already hankering for the next one. I made some great contacts with the younger attendees and i am looking forward to seeing them next year.


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Artempo media image, Palazzo Fortuny, Venice, 2007

My first memory of really being struck by the curation of an exhibition, rather than just the art, was in an auxiliary exhibition during the Venice Biennale in 2007. Held in a Palazzo down a laneway, off a laneway, was Artempo: Where Time Become Art at the Palazzo Fortuny.

I happened upon it after spending an afternoon off the Biennale map, instead following the signs around the city, in this case, a little red arrow.

Stepping inside the Palazzo was like stepping into a Seventeenth Century Wunderkammer, a hodge-podge of artworks dealing with decay, death, life, time, temporality, space. The array of artists exhibited spanned decades, with Man Ray and Duchamp, Warhol, Anish Kapoor, Francis Bacon and even Martino Fortuny himself, the artistic all-rounder whose marvellous palazzo we were standing in.

Curiosities like skulls, decaying furniture and stuffed animals, provided point and counter point to the artworks on display. It was a transformative and visceral experience. A complete assault on the senses and intellect, and I remember needing a hefty carafe of wine after the experience.

Level Two of the Palazzo
(thanks to David Yoder for The New York Times)

Even now, this exhibition has remained with me and I wish I were able to go back and experience it again.

To me, this is what curation should be, creating something with the art objects that makes people stop and think, even if only for a minute.

This exhibition made me want to be an art curator. I can only hope one day i will put on an exhibition that  makes someone react in the same way i did all those years ago.

I am inspired by the installations by artists like Anish Kapoor, Pippilotti Rist, Yayoi Kusama and Antony Gormley, who create new worlds for you to stick your head into.

Kapoor’s gaping, buzzing holes of colour in Untitled 2006-07, at the Queensland Art Gallery and Rist’s dada-like Small Laguna, 2011 at ACCA, are works that make the audience question what is going on before their eyes.

Another exhibition that has stuck with me was at London’s Hayward Gallery in 2009. Walking in My Mind: Adventure into the Artist’s Imagination featured large-scale, room filling installations by ten artists including Kusama and Rist.

Kusama’s room size red balls and dots created a magical land and people were running around in delight, finding different angles with which to take photographs of themselves with art and the surrounding mirrors. The exhibition also has a great flash website you can still check out.

One of my guilty pleasures is to subtly observe how other people react to the art they are viewing. I love how one work can fascinate one viewer, repulse another and not even register with a third.

MONA in Hobart, Tasmania

More recently, it has been David Walsh’s MONAisms that has struck a chord with me. I love how MONA contrasts old with new and hangs artworks next to each other that create dialogue. The dead horse next to the suicide machine or a Egyptian mummy next to the Chapman brothers.

I love the room that contrasts an Andres Serrano morgue series photograph with an actual mummified body. The use of the ‘black’ water moat around the walkway of a sectioned off space that only one or two people could enter at once, created an eerie space of reflection on death and mortality.

Wandering around MONA made me realise that I dislike staid exhibition text. The lack of text on the walls and randomised ‘O’ machines means that every visitor experiences the museum and each object in a completely different way to the person next to them.

This is the type of the experience I want to create as a curator.

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