Who are the art curators? Is that a profession or a hobby? When do they work? How do they work and who do they work with? Although key figures within the art world, there are endless questions about art curators for most of those who are not familiar with the ins and outs of it.
At Singulart, as you know, our mission is to empower artists, but this also includes the wider art community. We decided to meet a few art curators in order to get a better understanding of their day-to-day lives.
Today it is the turn of Theodore Bajard, a young French art curator.
What made you become an art curator?
I often think about this sentence from Ernst Gombrich: “There is no such thing as art. There are only artists.”
I’m passionate about people – their ability to question the world we live in, explore new perceptions, and challenge our reality. Artists are the fertile soil of our culture as we know it. Having worked in auction houses before, I needed to get closer to the creation and to the source.
How would you describe your job to somebody outside of the art world?
An art curator is a facilitator and a translator. A facilitator because he has to create an efficient platform for artists to showcase their work. The curator is the main point of contact, working side by side with a wide range of people from marketing to logistic or public relations. I’m also a translator because art is about transmission and the curator is responsible for putting the artist’s intentions into words in a curatorial statement or in a situation. One should be given an answer that triggers their imagination when they enter the gallery and ask themselves: “What am I looking at?”.
How does a normal day look like for you? How do you get inspiration, select artworks for exhibitions, and keep in touch with novelties in the art world?
It is crucial to follow thoroughly what is going on in the art scene at the moment and keep challenging your knowledge about what has been done already. I dedicate about 2 hours per day to reading about contemporary art – from art magazines, Instagram feeds, news platforms to artists’ books, essays, and curatorial statements. It is important to schedule as many artist studio visits as possible and in the meantime attend all major museum exhibitions to keep a sharp eye on quality.
How do you curate an art exhibition? Could you walk us through the process?
It all starts with the idea of bringing people together. An exhibition proposal is written and pitched to potential artists, funders and the press. Then, it is time to define budgets, negotiate consignment agreements with artists, create an exhibition schedule and, most importantly, secure the right space. How to create a smooth flow within the space? How do we want the viewers to experience the exhibition? Should we feed them with instructions for this specific installation or let their minds wander to build their own narrative? Virtually planning the show is a piece of cake, physically implementing it requires another set of skills.
The aim is to become a master of logistics dealing with production, transportation, insurance, customs surprises, delivery on site and installation. On the side, the curator is producing many important instruments: curatorial statement, press release, invitation, social media, catalogs, price list, visuals etc. This is where knowledge in marketing, graphic design, public relations, social media management is key. Finally, the opening night is the most rewarding moment when one can start a conversation, engage with the audience and enjoy the result of countless hours of work and dedication.
In your career, what were your major stepping stones? (inspiration, artists, exhibitions specializations etc.)
After working as a contemporary art specialist in auction houses, my goal was to bring art out of its traditional context. After exhibiting in the penthouse of the Deauville Hotel in Miami, I had conversations with contemporary artists like Chloe Wise in New York. I also explored with my business partner Santiago Rumney-Guggenheim innovative exhibition ventures. From an elevated parking lot in Mexico City to one of the most prestigious palaces Hotel de Crillon in Paris, we were looking to bring something fresh to the art world.
The recent IK Lab project in Tulum in Mexico was an important step. With showed museum-size installations of Tatiana Trouvé, we showed major works from Artur Lescher and Margo Trushina in a tree house that was transformed into an art gallery. I’m also an entrepreneur and founded Artolease – an art rental company – in New York in 2015, and Aster Art in 2018, which curates artworks for prestigious real estate projects in Paris.
What would your dream exhibition look like?
For me, a great exhibition holds its quality in its capacity to bring the viewer to the other side, creating productive doubts and manipulating mental perceptions. I’m fascinated by the physical experiences of sculptures and how our physical body inhabits space and time.
Space is crucial, I imagine my dream exhibition would include deep perspectives and wide-open views that offers a path of discovery. You would be greeted by Andre Breton’s sentence discreetly written: “The imaginary is what tends to become real”, paired with a biomorphic, perfectly polished marble sculpture from Jean Arp further down. A painting from Leonora Carrington would face large bay windows and specific intimate areas would allow one to deeply engage with some works individually.
Is there anything you would like people to know about your field of expertise?
Art is an educator of the gaze but also the main source of inspiration for our environment to evolve. When someone says “it looks cool” referring to a sleek Zaha Hadid building, the new iPhone or an infinity swimming pool, they all share the same blueprint, which is the geometrical abstract art Kazimir Malevich defined as Suprematism. Eliminate the superfluous, keep the essential, simplify the colors and focus on the purity of form. That is why art should be continuously supported, especially in these challenging Covid times.
Where in the world is your favorite art?
Marfa is for me one of the most vivid and poignant art experiences I’ve had. This small Texan town hosts less than 2000 inhabitant and is located 3 hours away from the closest airport, making it a special destination, hard to reach, surrounded by desert landscapes and steeped in mystery. It deserves the title of ‘minimalist art mecca’ – becoming an oasis of wonders, and a capsule trapped in time. In the 70s, the town was transformed by a groundbreaking art community coming mostly from New York, including Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Claes Oldenburg’s, Carl Andre and John Chamberlain, among others. A visit to the Chinati Foundation, founded by Donald Judd in 1986, will take you over 340 acres of land and among permanent large-scale installations where art, buildings, and the natural environment are inextricably linked, offering a profound and unique experience.
Is there any Singulart collection that has caught your eye?
I was particularly interested in your “Looking in the Mirror” collection. Singulart is a platform with an impressive diversity of artists and this look at all the intimate expressions of selves tells us many stories about human psychology and culture. The self-portrait shows the artists’ depiction of themselves in the context of artistic creation of their time. Beyond the reflection of their own image, the artist questions their art and their place in society. This is a beautiful feeling to grasp.