Daniel Buren, Travail in situ (1997), Skulptur Projekte Münster

In the format of exhibitions of the last decades the curator became as much the producer as the artist. This happens not only inside the museum, but also outside, as events like the Documenta in Kassel or Chambres d’Amis (1986) in Ghent illustrate. In these events the walls of the museums are supposedly broken down, but the same mechanisms remain at work. The 2009 ArtReview Power Top 100 perfectly demonstrates the hierarchies in the art world, as the number one position is taken by a curator, while the first artist comes in at number eight. Artists seem to be trapped between the dominant role of the curator and forces of the market system. While most of them seem to tolerate this, there are artists that have made these mechanisms central to their work, for example Daniel Buren, Michael Asher, Andrea Fraser and Hans Haacke.

The articles in this theme are touching upon the complexities surrounding exhibitions. Elise Noyez reviews a symposium at Witte de With’s Rotterdam Dialogues, in which curators reflected upon their role in the art world, without considering their dominance. Stefaan Vervoort discusses the problematic nature of the contemporary intervention in museums of fine arts, that is, an exhibition format in which the roles of artist and curator coincide. A case in point is offered by Martijn van Beek, explaining the effect of an enormous exhibition in a small Italian village, celebrating the renovation of a royal palace while at the same time democracy. Laura Prins discusses a problematic work of Hans Haacke, in which he is criticising Giuliani, the then mayor of New York, when he violated the First Amendment by trying to censure an art exhibition. Finally, Jane Boddy explains how a recent exhibition is trying to make a spectacle out of an early twentieth-century sculpture by Jacob Epstein, disregarding the meaning of the artist.

Laura Prins

Essays:

Elise Noyez, “Dialogue for One”

Stefaan Vervoort, “Double Fraud”

Martijn van Beek, “Repeopling the Palace”

Laura Prins, “Trashy Politics”

Jane Boddy, “Wild Thing”

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This website is the outcome of the course Critical Issues in the Cultural Industries, supervised by prof. Wouter Davidts within the context of the Visual Arts, Media & Architecture MPhil program at VU University Amsterdam. Contributors to the site are the first and second year students of the research master enrolled in the course.

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