Three times lucky…

It’s been a slightly longer process than with the two previous books in the series, but Curating after the Global: Roadmaps for the Present is now off to the printers. This time the team of editors had expanded to four: in addition to Paul O’Neill, Lucy Steeds and Mick Wilson, with whom I worked on How Institutions Think (2017) and The Curatorial Conundrum. What to Study? What to Research? What to Practice? (2016), Simon Sheikh was this time also part of the team of editors. Once again we worked with Valerio di Lucente from Julia, who is as pleasant and responsive a designer to collaborate with as one can wish for.

Although the range of contributions looks similar to the two previous books, quite a few of the essays/text/exchanges this time were significantly longer, some needing work in terms of structure and clarity, or serious expansions and/or reworkings from the presentation during the conference the book follows on from. All of which required more time than originally envisaged. In the end I’ve also managed to squeeze in a small contribution myself, about how anthologies like these are key platforms and mediums in the development of curatorial discourse, and my role in the care for words and the nuanced differences between the spoken utterance and the printed word on the page. Due out in the autumn, available via The MIT Press. Announcements about (a) launch(es) to follow in due course.

Cover open



Recently I had the pleasure of doing two talks outside my normal teaching context (Birkbeck, University of London): one for the current cohort of students at the Royal College of Art’s Curating Contemporary Art, upon the invitation of my wonderful former colleague Ben Cranfield, the other for BA arts students across programmes at Manchester Metropolitan University, upon the invitation of the equally wonderful Judith Winter. While the emphasis of the talks of course differed – Ben had specifically asked me to use my research as focus/starting point, whereas Judith wanted me to keep things broader to try and speak to a very diverse group of undergraduate students – I used some of the same material for both, with slight adaptations. At the RCA I talked specifically about publications as a space in relation to curatorial practice and discourse, and our expectations about its use in relation to art and exhibitions, whereas at MMU I focused on the use of publications as space for artistic practice and its mediation. Below the two opening slides: spot the difference…  

As I have done before, I used a facebook conversation Paul O’Neill and I had about five years ago, about the difference between curating an exhibition and curating a book, to kick-start my musings. Because I am in the middle of thinking and writing for several chapters in relation to my own research, doing both talks proved to be a welcome trigger to refocus.

The Curatorial Conundrum

9780262529105_0The Curatorial Conundrum 
is nearly off to print. The book looks at the burgeoning field of curatorship and tries to imagine its future. Both practitioners and theorists consider a variety of futures: the future of curatorial education, the future of curatorial research, the future of curatorial and artistic practice, and the institutions that will make these futures possible.

They examine the proliferation of graduate courses in curatorial studies over the last twenty years, and consider what can be taught without giving up what is precisely curatorial, within the ever-expanding parameters of curatorial practice. They discuss curating as collaborative research, asking what happens when the exhibition operates as a mode of enquiry in its own right. And they explore curatorial practice as an exercise in questioning the world around us, and speculate about what it will take to build new, innovative, and progressive curatorial research institutions.

Contributors include Nancy Adajania, Mélanie Bouteloup, Nikita Yingqian Cai, Luis Camnitzer, Eddie Chambers, Zasha Cerizza Colah, Galit Eilat, Liam Gillick, Vladimir Jerić, Koyo Kouoh, Miguel A. López, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Paul O’Neill, Tobias Ostrander, João Ribas, Sarah Rifky, Sumesh Sharma, Simon Sheikh, Lucy Steeds, Jeannine Tang, David Teh, Jelena Vesić, What, How & for Whom/WHW, Mick Wilson and Vivian Ziherl.

Edited by Paul O’Neill, Mick Wilson and Lucy Steeds, and published by the Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College/Luma Foundation and The MIT Press. Due in March/April 2016.


The Future Curatorial


This autumn/spring 2016 I will be working as managing editor on a publication following last year’s conference ‘The Future Curatorial: What Not and Study What? Conundrum’.

The conference took place at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson in November 2014 and was organised by Paul O’Neill and Tom Eccles (CCS Bard), in partnership with Mick Wilson (Valand Art Academy, University of Gothenburg); Lucy Steeds, Yaiza Hernández, Charles Esche, and Alison Green (MRes Art: Exhibition Studies/Afterall Books: Exhibition Histories and BA/MA Culture, Criticism and Curation at Central Saint Martins, London); and Lorenzo Benedetti and Guus van Engelshoven (de Appel Arts Centre, Amsterdam).

With contributions by the conference speakers, the book – entitled The Curatorial Conundrum – will be published by MIT in spring 2016.

Curating Now


I’ll be joining colleagues in the School of Art at Birkbeck to talk about ‘The Fringes of the Curatorial’ on 6 March at an event entitled ‘Curating Now’.

The afternoon seems to be fully booked already, but while the list of speakers seems to continue to expand, so may available places…

For more details see here and here.

The Best Is Not Too Good For You

Part of the Whitechapel Gallery3410c671d5fe5a0b_contemporary-art-society-the-best-is-not-too-good-for-you’s programme of opening up public and private collections for everyone, it is currently in the middle of a series of four different displays drawing on the collections of Contemporary Art Society member museums across England. Founded in 1910, the Contemporary Art Society supports public museums and galleries across the UK, through acquisitions, gifts, advocacy and advice. Each display focuses on a different part of England and has a different curatorial premise.

The publication brings together in-depth essays by the four curatorial fellows who each curated a display, in combination with images of the diverse ranges of objects selected for the presentations. Like previous Whitechapel collaborations with existing collections, the exhibitions offer a refreshing insight in the wealth and diversity of art and artefacts many regional collections harbour, presented in the context of new, temporary curatorial narratives.

From a purely selfish perspective it’s been wonderful to engage with the four – entirely different – curatorial premises and the curators’ framing: excellent case studies for teaching. It’s also been interesting to see the different writing styles about the very layered and sometimes complex backgrounds to the presentations. Although the space in which the Whitechapel hosts these collection presentations is modest, the care with which the exhibitions have been put together, and the narratives constructed, shines through in each essay. The four curatorial texts – by Anna Collin, Helen Kaplinsky, Ingrid Swenson and Gaia Tedone – are rich in detail about regional histories and quirky comparisons. They come accompanied by a brief history of the Contemporary Art Society by Helen Rees Leahy, reflecting on private versus public funding – something that has always been part and parcel of the museum and collections landscape – and a text by artist Matthew Darbyshire about his ongoing interventions in and comments on (museum) collections. The book is designed by SMITH.

Update 23 May: and a lovely book it’s turned out to be. Just received in the post.IMAG0646