Just How Good Are New Zealand Curators?

From this afternoon I am in Auckland and Wellington on business and may not be able to do any blogging until I return on Sunday afternoon. It depends upon time and access to a suitable computer, however I will do my best.

On Saturday evening I will be going to the opening of Telecom Prospect 2007 at the City Gallery in Wellington.

Curated by Heather Galbraith, this show is described in their publicity as being ‘an explosion of new art by New Zealander artists….drawing on the most vital and curious work made by New Zealand artists over the last three years.’

I’m sceptical of this claim because I’ve seen the list of artists in this show and find the work of some of those included to be conservative, and far from vital.

In recent years, not only has the number of curators in this country risen exponentially, but they have accrued considerable power over artists. A question I want to see asked is ‘just how good are these curators?’ Of course in a tiny country like this not many artists are going to ask this in public as it could have serious repercussions for their careers. But apart from artists, there doesn’t seem to be any serious commentary questioning in even a mild way, the quality of curatorial connoisseurship.

In the case of Prospect, there is also a statement that has been issued summarising the curatorial basis for the selection, unfortunately written in the usual hifalutin language that streams out of art galleries, and has earned art writing here the title of ‘the sick man of New Zealand literature.’ Here is the statement. Take a deep breath:

The exhibition is structured around three intersecting thematic clusters which have been derived from observations of and queries about current trends and debates: contemporary abstraction; a reconfiguration of the everyday and augmented reality. A connective thread weaving through the exhibition is an interest in collabortive practices and experiential dynamics between art works and their audiences.