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#OpenCurating: Yasmil Raymond on Curatorial Ambassadorship

Continuing #OpenCurating, its series of interviews and events exploring the ways Web 2.0 and social media technologies are informing new practices in art, the curatorial office Latitudes hosted an event in Barcelona recently with Dia Art Foundation curator (and former Walker curator) Yasmil Raymond. As #OpenCurating’s content partner, the Walker has participated in these conversations, both […]

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Yasmil Raymond (left) with Latitudes’ Mariana Cánepa Luna and Max Andrews at Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Februrary 19, 2013

Continuing #OpenCurating, its series of interviews and events exploring the ways Web 2.0 and social media technologies are informing new practices in art, the curatorial office Latitudes hosted an event in Barcelona recently with Dia Art Foundation curator (and former Walker curator) Yasmil Raymond. As #OpenCurating’s content partner, the Walker has participated in these conversations, both through an interview with our web team that launched the project in September 2012 and through publishing key pieces from the project on our recently redesigned homepage. Held February 19 at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, the event focused on Raymond’s work with Dia, where she’s been employed since 2009, and her current projects, including the forthcoming Gramsci Monument, a project by Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn that launches in July. In this excerpt from the full interview, Raymond fields questions on “curation,” including one from former Walker chief curator Philippe Vergne:

Latitudes:Philippe Vergne, the Director of Dia Art Foundation. Philippe’s questions are great but tough: “It seems today that everybody is a curator, that ‘curator’ is the new ‘DJ.’ How do you see the evolution of your own profession? Is there a different way to work with artists? And is Dia a place that has embodied proto-curatorial practices (in the 1970s) and post-curatorial practices (now)?”

Yasmil Raymond:As to how I see the evolution of the profession, I’ve only been in this profession for eight years — one year in dog years! But I do see an evolution in that the curators of the past like Harald Szeemann were so concerned with their authorship. Then we have great curators like Hans-Ulrich Obrist or Hou Hanru, Lynne Cooke or Catherine de Zheger, Ann Goldstein or Elisabeth Sussman, a whole generation of curators who I admire for their boldness and rigour on some levels, their scholarship and playfulness, their poetry. Some of them are phenomenal authors, they curate as if they were writing a book. I’m not interested in authoring in that way. When I write a text I am an author, but when I am working with an artist I’m not. I’m more interested in being a host. I look at it from the point of view of politics. I am the one that has to defend the work, first of all to my colleagues inside the institution, and to convince them that this is an exhibition that we need today, an artist we need to support today. Then we all have to convince the visitor. Winning those battles with enthusiasm and knowledge gives me real satisfaction. I’ve never thought of myself as a DJ, I’m not interested in playing to an audience in order to entertain. I am hostess, I make sure that the experience is unforgettable for the artist.

The artist Alejandro Cesarco recently gave a powerful talk at Dia about On Kawara, and it was like an artwork lecture, a homage to the great work of On Kawara. The next day I called him to thank him and he said to me that the experience of preparing the talk, of going to the archives, meeting the registrar, and so on, had really humanised his experience of the institution. I thought that was great. I’m a humanist and I want to insist on being humane, and for caring for the one-on-one, the face-to-face. So yes, I do think that Dia is gearing towards the post-curatorial in the sense that I don’t think artists need to be curated, I think artists need to be supported, enabled. And Dia means that, the word “dia” in Greek means “through,” and we have always said our mission is to facilitate, to be a conduit. So perhaps I’m not a real curator, I’m something else, an enabler, a vessel, and soon I’ll add ambassador to that list.

Latitudes:Let’s quickly move to the final questions. [Independent critic and curator] Maja Ćirić has asked, “What are the ‘cutting edge’ curatorial practices in United States today (spaces, agents, projects, exhibitions)?” And Agustín Pérez Rubio [Director, MUSAC, León, 2009–2013] asks, “As a curator with a Latin American background, how do you perceive the situation of Latin American art in the US, and more specifically in relation with Dia? Some of the most important Latin American artists lived or live in New York, from Felix Gonzalez-Torres to Luis Camnitzer… what is the relation with them?”

Raymond: “Cutting edge,” what is that? Well, I mentioned before The Artist’s Institute in New York, Anthony [Huberman] is asking very interesting questions about format, methodology and duration through his model of curating exhibitions. To answer Agustín, one of the founders of Dia in 1974, Heiner Friedrich, was a German art dealer who represented many of the artists than ended up entering the collection. There has been a few gifts since the 1970s but it is not like there was ever a plan or a committee deciding what to acquire, and we would need to have enormous resources today to commission or acquire large-scale projects in the same way as he did in the 1970s. So the idea of going back – not just to Latin America, but to any context – and to try to collect in depth a whole room of an artist such as Lygia Clark, it is just not possible. There is simply not enough work available to be able to go and buy a whole room now. Perhaps the situation is different with Felix Gonzalez-Torres. But in terms of this relating to my background, I don’t really work in that way. Perhaps my Latin gene is only active in my personal life. I’m interested in the energy of really extraordinary art, whether than happens to be made by Luis Camnitzer, or Gonzalez-Torres, or whoever, it doesn’t matter. But there is always a question of urgency. Gonzalez-Torres transformed what we understand today as art. But his work has been the subject of really important recent exhibitions and we need to weigh our priorities knowing that Dia cannot do it all. Perhaps one day, but not at the moment, we’ve made commitments to artists for the next four years.