I am an artist curator based in London and working regularly in China. I am also Irish, educated in Ireland & France and a woman. Art is in transition (when has it not been?) across almost every aspect of its manifestation and we need to raise our awareness levels. I believe that these are a number of awkward questions that artists and the public alike should be asking.
Particular areas of interest relate to:
As an artist curator I want to query why curatorial practice has been so dominated by academics, critics and gallerists? and why so many artists have allowed themselves to be disempowered by this process - which never appears to be reciprocal.
The increasing incidence of the artist curator is evidence that things are changing, but are they changing quickly enough? Why is the power balance in favour of those with words, rather than those with images, in a world where visual language has far greater potential for global relevance? It feels both timely and appropriate that I have been invited by ArtZip magazine http://www.artzip.org/ to be guest editor for the Spring edition; the theme is the Artist Curator.
Another sea change in the art world is the rising importance of inclusion, in the context of publicly funded contemporary collections.
Globally, all major contemporary art museums need to redress the shocking gender imbalance in their collections, the fact that most of the works they purchase, as distinct from those they exhibit, are by men– these are the questions which need asking:
In terms of Public funding for the Arts, the UK has recently had a review the arts sector’s growth (with the aim of axing funding – of course). It was found that the Arts Sector had a contribution to the economy of 4% as compared with 2.5% from the New technology sector and 1.5% from the pharmaceutical sector. This put paid to any Arts Council cuts, but it is appalling that the misconception of the arts as being an economic burden – a luxury item still persists.
Of course, another part of me is disgusted by the constant drive to ‘monetise’ culture and creativity as though they were not necessary for our human well-being and quality of life…….
MOBILITY & CROSS CULTURAL IMPORTANCE
Referring to the situation in Ireland particularly, cutbacks to cultural funds have made international mobility very difficult if not impossible for many Irish artists. As a small island nation, how can artists battle against this isolation and narrowing of horizons? What will the impact be for practitioners who need to develop an international practice? How will Ireland sustain an international profile in the visual arts?
Every political/business link between countries has a cultural handshake to begin with, why are cross-cultural arts projects not seen as a vital part of this and funded accordingly. Yes, I know that no one has any money! (except for those who have….). But money also has to be spent to earn money in the long run and investment in the arts has wide reaching potential.
Other areas which I believe need careful monitoring and ongoing evaluation are:
In particular, I would argue that the age bias mitigates against women, who need to have their children when fertile and often can only gain professional freedom when their families are older, that’s right, not every woman who is an artist, is single and without dependants…... In an ideal world men and women would share family responsibilities but in practice, this is not so often the case. So why not design residency programmes around real lives rather than a Utopian ideal? i.e. more options for say, one month or even 2 week programmes? These could be valuable research opportunities and more feasible for artists with families, female and male.
If the focus of public and private funding bodies is age restricted and disproportionately allotted to young artists, then we need to consider whether this is entirely logical. Many graduates from art colleges remain ‘practitioners’ when they embark on post-graduate studies but, by the time they’ve reached 35, having despaired of the lifestyle, they’ve given up. I would query whether allocating funds simply on the basis of age, when funding is very scarce, to those who may not remain practitioners for very long, is both wasteful and discriminatory.
Fion Gunn is a London based visual artist with an international multi-media practice.