For Interview Russia Olga Treivas talked with world-famous curator about his approach to curatorship and how curating exhibitions is similar to being an architect.
A short snippet from an interview with Germano Celant — art historian, critic, curator of Guggenheim Museum In New York and artistic director of Fondazione Prada. Celant is the one who has discovered many contemporary artists who are world-famous now. He is also known as the key researcher and author of the term arte povera, one of the most influential art movements of the 20th century. This interview was recorded during Venice Biennale in 2014.
Olga Treivas: Germano, you belong to generation of star-curators. Actually you are one of those who invented this profession. What have you started with?
Germano Celant: It’s simple. I had to become a one-man band to do so: art expertise is not enough, you also have to think about logistics, graphic design, architecture. In 60s and 70s curators could organize an exhibition from a scratch. I even think about the way where security staff stands and how they look. When I first came to work at Guggenheim in 1998, it was their terrible uniform that caught my attention first. I have immediately asked for a budget for a new uniform. It is now called ‘communication design’.
Olga Treivas: You are known to be on close terms with fashion.
Germano Celant: Oh, yes. Ingrid Sischy, editor of Artforum magazine, and I were the first ones to put Issey Miyake on the cover of art magazine. It has provoked a huge controversy in art society back in those days.
Olga Treivas: So… Have you sold your soul to the devil then? (Laughing)
Germano Celant: In the matter of fact, yes. Art historians think that all languages except art are shallow. I have been trying to fight this concept for years. But time passed, and now mixing art and fashion is a huge trend.
Olga Treivas: That’s right. In Italy most of organizations that support art came from fashion world — Trussardi, Prada, Max Mara…
Germano Celant: Exactly, but now it has become a common thing. That’s why three years ago we with Fondazione Prada decided to change the direction of our work. We have dropped retrospective exhibitions and have focused on multidicsiplinary art shows requiring a lot of research instead. Just like our new exhibtion called Art or Sound.
Olga Treivas: I think I get what you mean — about the trends. As an architect I am interested in how you are working with space. Do you prefer to blend in or completely attack the walls with art?
Germano Celant: I am in good relationship with exhibition spaces, actually. Don’t forget that I have been a curator at the museum built by Frank Lloyd Right for 20 years, and that’s serious.
Olga Treivas: Of course. (Laughing)
Germano Celant: Architecture is always a crucial part of exhibition. I remember curating Anselm Kiefer’s show at Guggenheim Museum — Bilbao. It was designed by Frank Gehry, who has a thing for 25-meter high walls and gigantic open spaces. I have immediately told the artist: ‘Anselm, you either fight this architecture, or start a dialogue with it’. So we have built a ladder that was 25-meter high. This is how we won.
The rest of the interview is available at Interview Russia website.