St Paul St Gallery Curatorial Symposium 2013

By Tamara Patten, Communications Officer, National Services Te Paerangi.

Panel discussion, St Paul St Gallery Curatorial Symposium. Image: Tamara Patten, Te Papa.On 7-9 August, I attended the St Paul St Gallery Curatorial Symposium: From a history of exhibitions towards a future of exhibition making.

The Symposium began with an evening keynote address from Jens Hoffman, Deputy Director of The Jewish Museum, New York. Jens set the scene for the Symposium with an overview of historically significant exhibitions, illustrating a shift in curatorial practice from conservation, interpretation and display of art, to a more creative profession.

Following Jens’ keynote, the Symposium’s full programme days were divided into two distinct parts. Day one delivered an examination of exhibition histories from the Asia Pacific region, and was structured to allow for discussion after each group of speakers. Day two involved presentations and panel discussions related to contemporary curatorial concerns.

The many impressive curators and artists speaking on day one included Shanghai-based independent curator Biljana Ciric, and Patrick Flores from the University of the Philippines, who travelled to Wellington after the Symposium to deliver a presentation at City Gallery Wellington. Simon Soon, a curatorial associate of OUR ArtProjects, an art consultancy based in Malaysia, captivated the audience with his ‘rearview mirror’ on Malaysian art in the 1970s.

Day two included an address from Lauren Cornell of New York’s New Museum, whose overview of web-based art was so engaging that at times she was obliged to turn off her slides as her audience were getting too lost in the experience. The Symposium culminated in a series of panel discussions, allowing the audience further opportunity for participation. With much of the Symposium’s focus having centred on historical exhibitions and curatorial practice, the final discussion turned optimistically forwards, asking what an ideal future of curating would look like.

Although it was enlightening to hear from the range of high-calibre international curators St Paul St Gallery had brought to New Zealand for the Symposium, for me, many of the highlights came from closer to home. Vera Mey (Assistant Director, St Paul St Gallery) delivered a thought-provoking presentation on the development of contemporary Asian art in New Zealand.  Postgraduate student and artist, Taarati Taiaroa’s presentation ‘Kaupapa Māori, Exhibiting Histories’, provided insights into the history of exhibitions of Māori art, including landmark exhibitions such as New Zealand Māori Culture and the Contemporary Scene (1966) which signalled the emergence of a contemporary Māori art movement.

Good quality, free professional development is hard to come by, so this opportunity for learning and discussion was very valuable. Thanks very much to the staff at St Paul St Gallery for an enriching two days.

The St Paul St Gallery 2013 Curatorial Symposium was presented by St Paul St Gallery in partnership with AUT Art and Design, Artspace, Creative New Zealand and National Services Te Paerangi.