History of Curation Part 3.

Walter Hops (1932-2005)

Fine curating of an artists work – That is, presenting it in an exhibition – requires as broad and sensitive an understanding of an artists work as a curator can possibly muster.


This knowledge needs to go well beyond what is actually put in the exhibition. (Hopps, 1996)

Walter Hopps was born in California in 1932 to a family of physicians. He joined the staff of the Passanda Art Museum (now the Norton Simon Museum) in 1962 aged 31. He was responsible for the first US retrospective, of Kurt Schwitters, and the first solo show he curated was of the work of Marcel Duchamp, a key figure in the art world in his own right.
Fig 1. Walter Hopps outside the Corcoran Gallery in 1970
The Dictionary of Art Historians described Hopps as a:
 “Seminal curator of 20th-century art” 
Hopps is certainly a curator whom has left his mark upon the art world. He possessed the keen ability to identify and exhibit cutting edge art, which kept him at the forefront of contemporary curation.
To me a body of work by a given artist has an inherent kind of score that you try to relate or understand. (Hopps, 1996)
Marcia Tucker (1940-2006)
Marcia Tucker was the curator and founder of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York (1977) an institute which she directed for 22 years. She was also the first Female curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Marcia Tucker portrait
Fig 2. Marcia Tucker
The Stanford University Digital Collection comments on Tuckers Practice: 
“Both her curatorial practice and her museum held as a philosophical underpinning the notion that contemporary art and its exhibition should be challenging conceptually and, often, politically.”
Her challenging exhibitions forced viewers to consider contemporary art and the vast web on modern art in an entirely new light.
Harald Szeemann (1933-2005)
Being an independent curator means maintaining a fragile equilibrium […] I’m proud that I still have a vision and rarer still, I often hammer in the nails. Its very exciting to work this way. (Szeemann, 1996)
Szeemann was immersed in the world of the curatorial from a young age, at just 28 years old (in 1961) he was the of the Kunsthalle (art room) in Bern, Switzerland. He transformed the provincial institution which had been dominated by unknown local artists, organising around a dozen exhibitions, which contributed to the rise of European and American artists.
It was at the Kunsthalle that one of Szeemans most well known exhibitions was held, the groundbreaking; Live in Your Head: When attitude Becomes Form (1969) featured over 70 artists. However, the Bern art room posed itself as a much more conservative institution, comfortable in tried and trusted forms of display, and were not open to new ideas. They heavily criticised the exhibition, and in the same year Szeemann left the Kunsthalle and became the first independent curator.
In 1972 he was appointed curator of Documenta 5 and through this was responsible for bringing performance and installation art to wider audiences. He also curated the 1980 Venice Biennial. 
Fig 3. Harald Szeemann
The curator has to be flexible, sometimes he is the servant, sometimes the assistant, sometimes he gives artists ideas of how they present their work in group shows he is coordinating, in thematic shows he is the inventor. But the most important thing about curating is to do it with enthusiasm and love – with a little obsessiveness (Szeemann, 1996)
By defying institutions and becoming the artworld’s curatorial nomad, Harald Szeemann was able to present work with boundaries or expectations of anyone other than himself, allowing his signature style to create a lasting impression on the curation of modern art.
Hans Ulrich Obrist (1968 – )
‘The super curator’,
‘The god of planet art’
Fig 4. Hans Ulrich Obrist © Yang Fudong, Shanghai (2009)
Named as the current most powerful figure of the international art world Hans Ulrich Obrist is the Co-director of the Serpentine Gallery one of London’s most popular contemporary art galleries. Obrist’s rise to international success can be attributed to an amazing ability to network, he comes across both charming and befriend-able.
In an interview with the London Evening Standard Obrist commented on his numerous friendships;
“I have many intense friendships with artists,” […] “I don’t mean we have intense one-day conversations but ongoing conversations that last in some cases for years.” (Obrist)
It is conversation that is of great interest to Obrist, he is the author of ‘the Interview Project’, “an extensive ongoing anthology of more than 2,000 hours of interviews with artists, architects, scientists, writers and engineers.” (Fliorat)
Hans Ulrich Obrist is a clear example of the success one can achieve via honed networking skills and an approachable attitude, and one that should be observed not just by young curators, but young artists as well.            
John Berger (1926 – )
Ways of seeing
John Berger is an art critic, novelist and author, as well as being an accomplished painter in his own right. 
The Guardian hails Berger as;
“One of the most influential British intellectuals of the past 50 years, still best known for his seminal book of art criticism, Ways of Seeing, which was published in 1972 and has shaped the thinking of at least two generations of artists and students.”
John Berger
Fig 5. John Berger. Photograph: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images
This ground breaking book and accompanying television series still influences artists today. Berger’s series broke down monumental barriers in art, making it appear much more to be a part of everyday life, than a construct reserved only for the elite. 

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