When he was 23, he organized an exhibition of contemporary art in his kitchen. In , he co-curated Manifesta 1, the first edition of the roving European biennial of contemporary art. I want to be helpful. He began publishing these interviews in Artforum in and in eleven of these interviews were released as Interviews Volume 1.
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How did the transition to organizing exhibitions take place? WH They both happened at the same time. When I was in high school, I formed a kind of photographic society, and we did projects and exhibits at the high school.
It was also at that time that I first met Walter and Louise Arensberg. But some of my closest friends were actually musicians, and the s were a great time of innovation in jazz. The younger musicians I knew began to try to get engagements and bookings, but it was very hard in those days. Black jazz frightened parents; it frightened the officials.
It had a subversive quality. I had the good luck to discover the great baritone-saxophone player Gerry Mulligan. Later, I had the chance to go on a double date with his wonderful trumpet player, Chet Baker. You know, those guys had a different sort of social life than would normally be the case. HUO For contemporary artists there was an incredible lack of visibility. WH Right. In Southern California there were only two occasions during my youth when any of the New York School people were shown.
And the critics damned them. One was an incredible show of New York School artists, The Intrasubjectivists, that Sam Kootz and others were involved with putting together.
He brought in a beautiful show with Pollock and Enrico Donati—a mix of the new Americans and sort of more Surrealist-oriented things. De Kooning was in it, Rothko, and so on. Hess constantly looked for every reason he could to champion de Kooning, as you know. We had virtually no critics like that in Southern California at the time. There was also Jules Langsner, who championed the abstract minimal kind of hard-edged painting—John McLaughlin, etc.
HUO How were these shows received? WH What impressed me was that the audience was there—younger artists and people who were not officially part of the art world then were really intrigued. It had a real human audience. HUO It seems like a paradox—there had been little to see, then suddenly around , there was a climax in art on the West Coast. WH I would see the crest of great Abstract Expressionist work as extending from through This is true for New York and also, on a smaller scale, for San Francisco.
During this period, most of the important Abstract Expressionist painters in America were working in top form. I really wanted to do a show about , with artists represented by a single major work apiece.
It would have been fabulous. Lawrence Alloway, in London, understood what was going on in a way that many people in America did not. WH Yes. I knew a little bit about what had gone on at Stieglitz was the first person to show both Picasso and Matisse in America.
Even before the Armory Show, you know. HUO So before Arensberg. Katherine Dreier was crucial. She, with Duchamp and Man Ray, had the first modern museum in America. And it was actually called the Modern Museum, although it was mostly known as the Sociйtй Anonyme. HUO The year leads us somehow back to the discussion we had during lunch, when you gave as a second very important date.
WH Oh, yes. Nothing really happened in museums until around It took that long. Then in New York and San Francisco, a little bit in Los Angeles, a little bit in Chicago—among certain collectors within those museums—things began to happen. Soon after Arensberg moved to Southern California, he had the idea of founding a modern art museum with his collection out there—combining some other collections with his.
But it was fated not to happen. There were not enough collectors of modern art to support such a project in Southern California. To me, the Arensbergs coming to Southern California gave it the cachet, the license, to do anything, even though the public and the officials were so contrary about contemporary art. Even during my time, right after World War II—in the late s and early s—the politics of the McCarthy era were very hard on art in the institutions in Southern California.
Picasso and even Magritte—Magritte, who had no politics, who was, if anything, a kind of patron of the royalists—had their work taken down as being subversive and communistic in the one museum we had in Los Angeles. There was plenty of weak contemporary art in Southern California. The whole school of Rico Lebrun. There were all these Picasso-like people and lots of insipid variations on Matisse; it just made you sick.
There was more authenticity and soul in some of the landscape painters. But things slowly began to creep in. In Southern California, the hard-edge painters, like John McLaughlin, began to be accepted in exhibitions.
San Francisco was the other place in the United States where great Abstract Expressionist art was beginning to be shown seriously, like Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko, as presented by a brilliant and pioneering curator of Modern art, Jermayne MacAgy.
WH Diebenkorn was their student. He also began to be shown, as well as David Park and others. HUO Could you talk about the emergence of the assemblage artists of your generation?
What were their sources? WH Wallace Berman was fascinating—he had a great touch, and great insights about Surrealist art, but he never became some thin carbon copy of Surrealist form, which many artists did.
He was crucial to the Beat sensibility. He was one of the serious people. He introduced me to the writings of William Burroughs. And he published his own little journal, Semina. One of the slightly older intellectuals that affected Beat culture so much on the West Coast was Kenneth Rexroth. He was a very intelligent man, and he was a great translator of some fascinating Chinese poetry. At the same time, he was something of a mentor to people like Ginsberg and Kerouac.
So was Philip Whalen. But the cultures of San Francisco and Los Angeles were quite distant: the patronage, the infrastructure. The patrons who would spend money were mostly living in Southern California, and most, though not all, of the really interesting art was being created in the north. It was a difficult dialogue, and I felt it was crucial to unite the art from the north and the south. HUO In Los Angeles and the West Coast in general the artistic and intellectual circles seem to have been relatively open at the time, not dogmatic but inclusive.
WH Absolutely. But he also liked de Kooning. He had no problem with that. In the world of the New York School, it was very difficult—Greenberg became the champion of all the color-field people; Rosenberg became the champion of de Kooning and Franz Kline. The artists took up their allegiances, also. WH Kienholz and Berman knew each other, but there was a schism between them. Kienholz was a private, tough realist.
Berman was very spiritual, with a kind of cabalistic Judaism and regard for Christianity. They were very different. Today I suspect much less controversy, but you never know. With this exhibition I hope to reveal the continuity as well as the power of his art and both its origins in an American sense of West Coast culture and its wide range of vital subject matter.
HUO To come back to the issue of curating: in an earlier interview you mentioned a small list of American curators and conductors you consider to be important predecessors. WH Willem Mengelberg was a conductor of the New York Philharmonic, who imported the grand Germanic tradition of running an orchestra and conducting.
So I mention Mengelberg not so much for his style, but for his unrelenting rigor. This knowledge needs to go well beyond what is actually put in the exhibition. Mengelberg was the sort of conductor who had a broad knowledge of any composer he addressed. Of the curators, I admired Katherine Dreier enormously, with her exhibitions and activities, because she, more than any other collector or impresario I knew, felt she should facilitate what they actually wanted to do, to the greatest extent possible.
WH Exactly. She had Man Ray and Duchamp—having artists in this capacity is nothing but trouble, conventionally.
Barr, who came from a Protestant Yankee family, might have become a Lutheran minister. Instead he became a great director and curator with an institution that had all the resources the Rockefellers, and others, could provide at the time. There was a kind of moral imperative behind Barr. He preached that Modern art was good for people, that the populace could somehow become inculcated with the new Modernism and it would improve their lives.
Sweeney was more complicated and romantic. But Sweeney was a genuine romantic who felt that the aesthetic experience was a whole other territory to explore.
How did the transition to organizing exhibitions take place? WH They both happened at the same time. When I was in high school, I formed a kind of photographic society, and we did projects and exhibits at the high school. It was also at that time that I first met Walter and Louise Arensberg. But some of my closest friends were actually musicians, and the s were a great time of innovation in jazz. The younger musicians I knew began to try to get engagements and bookings, but it was very hard in those days.
A Brief History of Curating by Hans Ulrich Obrist
Interpreting, curating and caring for mixed collections demands of curators a wide range of knowledge and understanding. The Curation and Care of Museum Collections is designed to give curators the fundamental information and confidence they need to manage and care for all of the collections within their responsibility, regardless of their previous training and experience. Comprising two sections — Museum Collections, and Collection Development and Care — the chapters cover archaeology, art, history, military and natural sciences collections, as well as heritage properties. Every chapter in the book is focused on one type of collection, but all chapters in the collection management section contain advice on topics such as organisational philosophy, documentation, legal issues and materials in order to provide a useful and comprehensive guide to managing collections. The collection care section is structured in the same way, considering the issues of storage; display; handling; moving; packing; housekeeping; health and safety; emergency preparedness; and pest, pollution, environmental, light and vibration management.
Jan 27, Tosh rated it really liked it One time in my life I thought it was only the artist that matters. But alas, it is very much like the music world. If you map it out there is the artist, the curator, and then the audience for that art. Or perhaps the curator is a translator?