Curators at the NGV work within their collection areas – such as Photography, Contemporary Art, Asian Art and International Art – to research and produce interesting and creative exhibitions.
In my department, Australian Art, the curators look after the Gallery’s collection of Australian Painting, Sculpture and Decorative Arts (to 1980). In addition to this, we curate exhibitions which draw upon works from the NGV’s collection with works from other galleries, institutions, private collections and sometimes borrowed from the artists themselves.
Exhibitions can be based on a particular art movement, artist, theme or period in time. The curator researches the premise to construct a list of works which will produce an engaging exhibition for the viewer. When curating an exhibition, we work closely with every other department at the NGV, from Registration, Conservation, Photography, Education, Public Programs to Cataloguing. The curator will also work on choosing a title for the exhibition, and often works with the Publication team to produce a Catalogue. Publications are important resources that often feature essays, images and a checklist of all works exhibited.
Working as a curator on StArt Up: Top Arts 2015 is a little bit different than my normal work. Rather than having the artist or theme decided upon first – the works instead are selected on their own individual merit (and the accompanying folio of development work). This means putting together a visual narrative within the exhibition can be a little bit more challenging as it all happens after the works have been chosen.
The works included in StArt Up: Top Arts 2015 are selected by a panel comprised of the curators, VCAA VCE State Reviewers, NGV Senior Educator and VCAA regional school representative. Once the final works have been selected, it is the job of my fellow curator, Ingrid Wood, and I to find aesthetic similarities (or differences!) and narratives to weave the works into an exciting and thoughtful exhibition.
To help us with this, we have an exhibition designer, who scales images of all the selected works into tiny replicas. Ingrid and I then work with a model of the gallery space and the scaled works to layout the gallery space – and look at how the photographs, installations, paintings, drawings and sculptures (just to name a few mediums) work together. This means when it comes to hanging the actual exhibition, we already have a good idea where each piece will sit, and how the works will relate to one another.