Naomi Beckwith, a curator to watch

At barely 41 years old, Naomi Beckwith is an African-American curator who is taking the other side of the Atlantic by storm thanks to her refreshing, all-embracing vision of today’s art. In Chicago, an interview with a woman whose social awareness underlines her inspiring take on her profession.   When the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago recently celebrated its 50th year, Naomi Beckwith was part of the team that organised its three-part “We are Here” birthday exhibition. A jury member of the 2015 Venice Biennale, this young curator at the MCA Chicago since 2011 is the inaugural winner of the VIA Art Fund Curatorial Fellowship grant, aimed at promoting promising artistic projects. And let’s not forget that in March 2017, she chaired the first curatorial leadership summit at New York’s Armory Show. An opportunity for AMA to shed light on her current role at the MCA and to discover her singular perspective on curatorship.   Naomi Beckwith, what did you do before becoming curator at the MCA Chicago? I was in New York, at the Studio Museum in Harlem. I managed the artist-residency programme and I worked on cultural projects relating to African-American identity, aesthetic minorities, but also current practices on a global scale.   The MCA Chicago is considered to be one of the most influential museums in the United States, with an extensive “historic” collection of contemporary art, ever since its creation in 1967.  What were your goals when you arrived there in 2011? I was coming home so to speak, because I was born and raised in the Windy City! I wanted to develop solo shows with established artists, but above all, to set up exhibitions on young emerging artists who have never been shown. But my current exhibition, “Howardena Pindell: What remains to be...

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Jelle Bouwhuis: Decolonising the Art World

Jelle Bouwhuis is currently curator-at-large at the Stedelijk Museum. He has been the head of its project space, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam for ten years. In the recent past he was amongst others in charge of the “Global Collaborations” project, with collaborative exhibitions in Yogyakarta, Beirut, Belgrade or Bombay.   What is your background? I was doing some irrelevant jobs and playing in a band until I enrolled into an art mind by studying art history at the age of 23. Art history seemed to me one of those fields of study that is not concerned with career making. But during my studies, I started to work at university for some teaching and then I turned into an art critic for a daily newspaper. Later on, I started working for marketing and public relations for art museums. How do you perceive the role of curators and the relationship between curators and artists? This is a difficult question… From the institutional perspective, there is a very strong separation between the two – curators have fixed paid jobs while artists do not. On the other hand, a lot of solo exhibitions of living artists are very much indebted to or practically curated by the artists themselves. Certainly in smaller institutions, the roles of curator and artist are interdependent. It is much nicer not to be fixed to a certain title and shift among the roles of curator, artist, writer, art critic. So what is a curator? It might depend on what exactly and where you are looking at. It is true that there is a trend since the 60s when curators started to assume more pivotal roles. Today many institutions are concerned about numbers, finances and branding their programs – if this is not possible with a famous artist, then perhaps a...

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Anton Corbijn, curator of the Unseen Photo Fair in Amsterdam

This year, the Unseen Photo Fair will be taking place from 16 to 25 September at the Museum Het Schip and different venues in the Spaarndammerbuurt district in Amsterdam. Curated by well-known Dutch photographer and film director Anton Corbijn, the exhibition “Touched – Craftsmanship in Photography” will gather 12 international photographers including Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs, Miroslav Tichý and Daisuke Yokota. The festival will also be presenting a spectacular exhibition, “The Politics of Sport”, by artists Christto & Andrew, in an outdoor swimming pool, as well as an exhibition of contemporary Japanese...

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South Korea’s Busan Biennale headed by Yun Cheagab

In South Korea, the 2016 International Busan Biennale at the Busan Museum of Art and F1963 (Kiswire Suyeong factory), from 3 September to 30 November, will be tackling the theme “Hybridizing Earth, Discussing Multitude”. Steered by Yun Cheagab (director of the How Art Museum in China), this international event will consist of two exhibitions: the first presents a selection of artists from the Chinese, Japanese and Korean avant-garde up to the 1990s; the second focuses on art emerging since the 1990s, with 193 works by 56 artists from 23...

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Call for projects for the inaugural Antarctic Biennale

The artistic directors of the first Antarctic Biennale, to be held from 27 March to 6 April 2017, has launched a call for international applications from artists under 35 years, in response to the maxim “Mobilis in Mobile”. The jury includes artist Alexander Ponomarev and board members, Defne Ayas, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Hoor Al-Qasimi and Nadim Samman. The fifteen finalists will be invited to take part in a group exhibition in the Antarctic Pavilion in Venice in summer 2017 during the 57th edition of the Contemporary Art...

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