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Rising Stars: The New Generation of Female Curators Shaping the Future of Art


Curators capacity building programme in Innsbruck by Alena Klinger
Agnė Tuskevičiūtė
Ugnė Pavlovaitė | Kaunas Biennial Feb 22, 2024
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“Art is for people; it’s the best way to speak up and to get to people,”– Ana Gabelaia (Tbilisi Photo Festival, Georgia)

 

The rise of a new generation of female curators in the art world has garnered global attention. Among them are Ana Gabelaia (Tbilisi Photo Festival, Georgia), Felicia Bjärmark Esbjörnsson (OpenArt, Sweden), and Linda Krūmiņa (Latvia, New Theatre Institute of Latvia), inspiring individuals who have forged unique paths into curatorship. Their journeys are characterized by rigorous research, unwavering enthusiasm, and a profound understanding of the interplay between art and community. Hailing from diverse backgrounds and possessing distinct perspectives, they have offered fresh insights into the art world. In the process, they have challenged conventional curatorial norms and pushed boundaries in terms of representation and inclusivity. These emerging talents are actively shaping the art landscape of the future, challenging the traditional male dominance within the field.

This transformation is reflected in the shifting landscape of curatorial roles, with a noticeable transition towards greater gender diversity. Ana observed this trend, noting that, “I’m pretty sure that something new is happening and has to develop now in the sphere… Most of the curators in Georgia are female.” Felicia concurred, highlighting that “female curators are more present and setting the tone; they make the most impact on the art scene.” The phenomenon of gender diversity in curation is not confined to Georgia and Sweden; it is a global trend. Women are increasingly taking up curatorial positions, thereby challenging traditional male dominance. This surge in female representation promises to infuse the field with fresh perspectives and ideas while paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable future in art curation.

Nevertheless, challenges persist for women in the field of curation. One major obstacle is the enduring gender bias and stereotypes that persist within the art world. Women curators often grapple with issues related to being taken seriously and having their expertise questioned due to their gender. Linda astutely pointed out these challenges, stating that There are many obstacles… Nonetheless, your gender is sometimes prioritized over your job.” Therefore, it is paramount to foster distinctive leadership approaches. Linda emphasized the importance of adopting an alternative leadership style characterized by inclusivity, empathy, and sustainability. This approach appreciates the process as much as the outcome and can extend beyond gender boundaries. It recognizes the inherent power within leadership roles and, consequently, creates an empowering work environment that transcends gender distinctions. By valuing diverse perspectives and experiences, this approach leads to more innovative and successful results.

Expanding on this perspective, Linda highlighted the significance of curators acknowledging their impact and power, as well as the importance of active participation even when uncertainty looms. She acknowledged the challenges of this approach, which require trust in the process and collective thinking, but viewed it as a unique opportunity to harness collective power and individual capabilities to forge a shared understanding. Curators can cultivate a more inclusive and dynamic collaborative environment by embracing diverse perspectives and experiences. This not only leads to innovative and successful outcomes but also nurtures a sense of empowerment and ownership among participants, ultimately enhancing the overall impact of the project.

Ana Gabelaia
Ana Gabelaia (Tbilisi Photo Festival)

The Art of Curation: Exploring the Interplay Between Art, Identity, and Transformation

Within the intricate landscape of curating, the degree of a curator’s involvement often defines their role and curatorship. This involvement varies based on context and specific objectives. Some curators adopt a hands-on approach, actively collaborating with artists and artworks to craft a cohesive narrative or theme. Others take a more hands-off stance, allowing artworks to speak for themselves and encouraging viewers to interpret them as they see fit. Regardless of the approach chosen, the role of the curator in shaping the viewers experience and facilitating meaningful connections between art, identity, and personal transformation is paramount. As Ana aptly stated, “Curating, first and foremost, requires initiative,” emphasizing the importance of taking the first step towards change. Working locally holds particular significance for her. Curating, as described by Felicia, involves creating similar conditions and exploring them in tandem with the artist. Linda underscored the collaborative relationship between curator and artist, stressing that a curator is more than a mere assistant; they bring their own vision and values to the table.

A curator’s unique style and approach play a pivotal role in interpreting art, shaping the viewer’s experience, and influencing the overall context in which artworks are viewed. This, in turn, fosters a deeper understanding of the artist’s intentions. Ana, Felicia, and Linda acknowledged that due to subjectivity and emotional connections, describing their curatorial styles could be challenging. Ana perceives her curating as experimental and personal, driven by the quest for answers and the initiation of new questions. Linda characterizes her curatorial style as emotional, noting that, “My curatorial work can sometimes be really emotional… I get ideas from observing the world around me. So it comes from this type of need, interest, or urgency.” Felicia’s interests lie in public spaces, feminism, and challenging conventions. She enjoys creating projects that engage communities and extend the life of artworks beyond their immediate presentation. She actively encourages interaction through programs and community involvement, thereby ensuring that the artworks endure.

A curator’s distinctive style is just as vital as navigating the delicate balance between the process and the end result. The art world remains divided on whether to emphasize the ongoing creative process or present a definitive outcome. While finding definitive answers within artworks can be challenging, Ana pointed out that a unique connection often forms between the audience and the artwork, addressing shared concerns. Felicia emphasized that artworks can communicate with people even in the absence of the artist, thus fostering a distinctive form of communication. This ongoing debate has influenced how curators approach exhibitions, with some opting to showcase the creative process alongside the final result. This approach seeks to provide deeper insights into the artist’s intentions and enables viewers to witness the evolution of the artwork. By focusing on the process, not only does the audience’s connection to the artwork strengthen, but it also promotes a more interactive and participatory art experience.

Curators must aim for representation and relevance considering the diverse range of experiences and identities within their audience. “At the New Theatre Institute of Latvia, we transcend traditional exhibitions and instead focus on theatre and performative events,” Linda explained. Their mission revolves around promoting dialogue and understanding through the transformative power of live performance, actively encouraging the audience to engage with the art and with one another. She recalled a poignant moment from the “Ukrainian Story Nights” project, where they collaborated with local Ukrainian women to share their experiences as refugees: “We facilitated their collaboration, allowing them to determine their own structure, requirements, and narratives while offering our support… Empowering them to have a voice and share their current realities was of paramount importance.” Linda’s objective is to create a platform where individuals can authentically express their realities, thereby nurturing understanding and empathy within a secure environment, challenging societal stereotypes, and championing inclusivity.

Linda Krumina by Marika Sviķe
Linda Krumina by Marika Sviķe

 

Beyond the White Spaces: The Magical Journeys of Emerging Curators

Magic Carpets – Creative Europe’s platform is a unique artistic initiative that unites 21 European cultural organizations in a journey of exploration through uncharted territories of creativity and cultural expression. It serves as a bridge, connecting communities and artists, while also providing an essential platform for emerging curators to experiment and innovate within the diverse tapestry of European culture.

For the interviewed emerging curators, being a part of Creative Europe’s “Magic Carpets” platform marked a significant period in their careers, leaving indelible imprints on their work and perspectives.

Linda’s journey with Magic Carpets was nothing short of “truly magical.” She described her initial experience as an opportunity to pursue her passions without being confined to established norms. The platform proved invaluable during the COVID era, enabling her to engage with young people remotely. Through engaging Skype conversations, they explored various themes, enriching her life and deepening connections despite the lockdown. The experience evolved their creative process through dialogue and workshops, allowing their work to transcend the limitations of a studio.

For Ana, Magic Carpets provided a means to make a positive impact on her local community. She believes that art is a powerful tool for engaging and communicating with people. One of her fondest memories was using community resources to purchase a horse for a 13-year-old boy, exemplifying the substantial impact of her work.

Felicia, despite facing personal challenges, hosted a foreign artist over the winter. The artist formed connections with the local LGBTQ+ community through workshops, creating a lasting and cherished memory. Felicia emphasized the happiness brought to community members, reaffirming her belief in the unifying power of art and the significance of initiatives like Magic Carpets.

These experiences underscore the evolving impact of Magic Carpets in redefining the boundaries of art and its ability to bring people together. They leave lasting impressions on both the artists involved and the communities they touch. In the words of Linda, the platform offers a valuable tool for understanding the influence of curators: “We kind of reflect that we’re not just anonymous people who sign agreements.” This perspective highlights the power of the platform in providing emerging curators with a voice and a platform to showcase their work. It allows them to break free from the shadows often associated with their role and establish themselves as influential figures in the art community. This not only enhances their professional growth but also contributes to the overall diversity and richness of artistic expression within the Magic Carpets network.

Felicia sees the platform as an alternative pathway to traditional curatorial practices. She believes that Magic Carpets introduces curators to artists and colleagues they might not have encountered otherwise. It encourages a more inclusive and global perspective by connecting with artists and curators from diverse backgrounds. Felicia admires how the platform pushes boundaries and fosters unconventional collaborations, resulting in innovative and thought-provoking exhibitions.

Ana views her engagement with Magic Carpets as an enriching addition to the narratives shared by Linda and Felicia. It has steered her career in unexpected directions, expanding her horizons beyond the walls of galleries and into the exhibitions of nature in mountains and valleys. Her involvement has also opened doors for collaboration and networking, allowing her to step into a vibrant, creative melting pot with 16 other curators under this initiative.

Magic Carpets isn’t something Ana sees as a temporary endeavour; rather, she views it as a platform for future collaborations and the development of a global curatorial network. She is optimistic about the continuity and expansion of the relationships built through the initiative, foreseeing that the connections made will not only endure but also translate into new collaborations in the future, serving as a model for many more important art projects.

In summary, the curators’ experiences demonstrate the transformative power and impact of the Magic Carpets initiative. It ignites creativity, innovation, and connections, creating a rich tapestry that transcends cultural boundaries and reimagines the art of curation. Magic Carpets has emerged as a dynamic platform for growth, exploration, and community building, with Linda’s magical journey during lockdown, Ana’s inspiring community engagement, and Felicia’s embrace of unconventional collaborations. It not only offers emerging curators the opportunity to express their unique voices but also fosters an environment of inclusion, empathy, and imagination that serves as an inspiration for the future of art and culture.

Felicia Bjärmark Esbjörnsson
Felicia Bjärmark Esbjörnsson

 

Through the Digital Lens: The Future of Curating in the Age of AI

As we reflect on the remarkable journeys of Linda, Felicia, and Ana and the growing influence of technology, we can’t help but wonder about the future of curators in this era of rapid technological transformation.

Ana, a rising curator, shares common concerns, focusing less on the direct consequences of technological advancements like AI and more on the broader effects on artistic fields. She illustrates her point with a conversation she had with a video editor friend who worried about AI replacing him. Despite the growing concerns, Ana chooses to focus on the potential benefits. She believes that this technological turbulence may lead to unforeseen and beneficial changes in the art world. “I think maybe good things will happen too because it will be a good way of filtering the genuine from the artificial in art,” she says hopefully. Ana goes as far as hypothesizing that the current state of technological development could act as a sort of furnace for “genuine” art, purifying and preserving its essential value.

The central question emerges: Could artificial intelligence truly replace the role of a curator? Ana’s reflection on this issue oscillates between scepticism and curiosity: “I don’t think artificial intelligence can curate. Yet.” This perspective captures the shared expectations of her colleagues, revealing their desire to witness forthcoming changes. “I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen and how it’s going to develop,” Ana declares. Her insights serve as a compelling reminder that we are at the beginning of a revolutionary wave that will disrupt the art world and beyond.

Felicia, adding to Ana’s thoughts, enriches the conversation with her perspective on the role of the curator in the context of advancing technologies. Felicia believes that the inherently connected and collaborative nature of the curation process may prove challenging for AI to replicate: “For me, curating is so much about relationships and doing it together. That would be hard to do with artificial intelligence.” She recognizes the difficulty of creating an exhibition in a sterile environment, a process that demands a great deal of intuitive thought and personal judgment. She ponders whether AI will ever fully comprehend the real-world curatorial process.

However, Felicia acknowledges that technology’s impact on the curatorial field could be multifaceted, presenting challenges, creating barriers, or offering assistance. She applies this perspective to her experience in graphic design and illustration, where she envisions herself not as the sole creator but as a “visual captain,” guiding the tools at her disposal to realize her vision.

Despite the changing landscape, Felicia maintains her fascination with artworks touched by human hands. She believes that art should bear the imprint of human involvement, whether it’s in the idea or the concept, if not necessarily in the final product.

Linda continues the multi-faceted discussion by offering her unique take on technology’s effect on the art curation industry. Far from being anxious or apprehensive about the future, Linda expresses a keen interest in learning more about it. When it comes to the fields of art and curation, Linda doesn’t view technology and AI as destructive forces. Instead, she sees them as the seeds of a new reality that require investigation and understanding: “I maybe don’t see it as destructive so much, but kind of more as this new reality where we just have to understand what we do and how we do things,” she explains. Her perspective underscores the need for flexibility and an open-minded approach to this technological evolution. The integration of technology and AI into the field of curatorship is not something to be feared or dismissed. It’s already a part of our lives, and she suggests we approach it with curiosity. She advises, “Just be curious about it and see how you can work with it.” Linda also notes that while not all artists or curators may be interested in technology as a field of research, they might still find something useful and interesting in it for their work.

In conclusion, the journeys and insights of curators like Linda, Felicia, and Ana highlight the complex interplay between technology and the future of curating. They acknowledge the ongoing changes brought by technological advancements, but their perspectives are marked by a sense of curiosity and hope. They express excitement about the potential for technology to transform the art world and, at the same time, recognize the irreplaceable role of human curators in fostering relationships and intuitive connections between art, artists, and the audience.

The Road Ahead: Guidance for the Next Generation from Ana, Felicia, and Linda

As we navigate the future of curatorship, we turn our attention to the invaluable insights gained from the experiences of Ana, Felicia, and Linda. These curators offer precious wisdom for those aspiring to follow in their professional footsteps. Imagine sitting across from one of these emerging curators, eager to explore the highs and lows of their careers. What would you ask? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! We’ve asked our rising curators to share their most important lessons and advice for those looking to embark on a similar path.

“Do what you believe in and what you enjoy doing. But keep in mind that it can be challenging… Every decision you make will have consequences. You may not believe that your current actions will influence your future career, but they will… When you engage in whatever you’ve chosen and put your heart into it, it will lead to what you desire. The more you invest in it, the better you’ll become,” says Felicia. Her candid and motivating words can serve as a guiding light for individuals navigating the sometimes turbulent waters of their passions.

Linda, who possesses a profound understanding of the curator’s role, imparts her personal insights to those new to the field: “First and foremost, spend time in conversation with yourself. Understand why you want to pursue this path and seek those things that ignite your curiosity and joy. Once you’ve taken this essential step, boldly pursue it. In the beginning, you might rely on familiar structures, but always feel free to create your own when you’re ready. This freedom is how you’ll nurture your unique approach and foster continuous growth.” She acknowledges the field’s inevitable challenges: “It’s never easy. Self-reflection is an essential, ongoing process; it’s not always achievable 100%, but it’s a valuable state to be in.” Linda emphasizes the importance of learning from failures, encouraging future leaders to view mistakes as stepping stones rather than setbacks: “I wish for us to fail as much as possible, as this helps us fear less, learn more, and grow stronger.”

The experiences of Felicia and Linda illuminate the road ahead for the next generation of curators, offering invaluable lessons learned from their journeys. These lessons underscore the significance of perseverance, adaptability, and a growth mindset in navigating the challenges and uncertainties that come with curating. Aspiring curators can draw inspiration from their stories to embrace failure, welcome continuous learning, and strive for personal and professional growth in their own journeys.

Lastly, we turn to Ana’s advice. As another influential curator, Ana shares her thoughts, shaped by her own trials and reflections: “Be brave,” she begins, emphasizing the importance of courage.
“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, follow your intuition, and care less about what others will say. Remember, external opinions often place limitations on you, but true creativity calls for you to think without such restrictions. The sooner you realize this, the faster you’ll start innovating.” Yet, Ana’s wisdom extends beyond personal development. She advocates for a broader perspective, stating, “Care about the environment and people around you.” A curator’s journey demands not only professional discipline and courage but also empathy for the earth and its inhabitants.

In the profound wisdom and advice of Ana, Felicia, and Linda, we find invaluable guidance and teachings for aspiring curators. They chart a path that extends beyond professionalism, embracing the intricacies and nuances of human growth, courage, empathy, and creativity through their distinct yet interconnected perspectives. Felicia’s remarks encourage dedication and heartfelt involvement; Linda’s thoughts emphasize self-reflection, fearless exploration, and the power of failure; and Ana’s words promote fearlessness, intuition, and a greater concern for our environment. They paint a vibrant picture of what it means to be a curator in today’s evolving landscape, illustrating not just a job but a calling filled with passion, challenges, and boundless potential for growth. The sincerity and depth of their shared experiences serve as a guiding beacon for those considering a career in curating, illuminating a path that is as rewarding as it is demanding and as full of opportunity as it is laden with responsibility.