PG lecture: Lucy Day on her curatorial work

Lucy Day is half of Day + Gluckman a curatorial partnership. She talked about how new shows emerge, what curators look for and what we as artists could learn from that to incorporate into our own practice.

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Their shows emerge either out of conversations with artists about their work or from particular interests that she and her partner have. This process can take several years; they have been working on one of their current projects, A Woman’s Place, for more than 5 years. Curators are

a conduit between space and ambition.

A key idea was The Perfect Triangle: what an exhibition needs to be successful

a creative idea + a good publicity campaign + funding

Thinking in groups about what makes a good exhibition there was a lot of emphasis on the visitor experience: feeling welcomed, having enough information and so on. An exercise about what roles were needed in a team organising a show revealed just how many different angles needed to be covered: artistic, practical, marketing, funding, interpreting, documenting … – and often by only a handful of people. This was useful preparation for our student shows.

She encouraged us to think about our planning for a show using the same kind of structure they would use as curators: what are our plans about scale, ambition (you can’t have it all – good reviews, footfall, sales …), audience and outcome.

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An interesting point she made about location was that people – i.e. collectors – don’t travel. She saw galleries moving back from East London to the West End.

As curators, they look for: confident practice, evidence of risk-taking, avoiding just following trends, being easy to work with (!). They seem to find artists often through personal recommendation – an encouragement to build our own networks.

Other key messages for us:

  • research galleries and curators: know what you are looking for and where you will fit
  • know what your work is about
  • make it visible
  • be self-reflective
  • edit your work.