I don’t even understand the meaning of the word ‘curation’, though people have been calling me a curator for the last ten years. Yes, I do perform some of the functions that a curator does for an exhibition but I rather be called as an exhibition coordinator or simple ‘consultant’ to the exhibition. I love to organize and host exhibitions, meet various artists and select works for the show, work on the design of the exhibition and also help in display. Maybe even give it a theme, but then that’s that! I don’t have an art history background and I can’t write about art, so why make me?
The current dilemma comes from one of my recent projects, which has been going on for over a year. This exhibition has made me realize that I should make my life simpler and just stick to travel and photography. Its much easier than dealing with 35 artists in an exhibition, some of which do not even want a dialogue with me. “Send us your note, and we will revert.”
Even when they reply in the affirmative, they don’t want to discuss the note and are happy to give a work. At some times, I can even agree to that but not this time. The exhibition starts in a day and I am still to receive a note or a painting or a picture, which would help me ‘curate’ the gallery. All I have is a size and have been told to leave that much space. Ok, no problem, there is some space left in the bathroom!
Yesterday morning was special. I reach the venue to start installing the show and to my surprise, the gallerist has decided to change the galleries and move into a brand new space, which I hadn’t selected. Now, how is a curator supposed to respond to this, especially when I was standing with a sequence designed for 5 smaller galleries, distributed thematically in each room. I guess this is the way it is and having tossed my sequence of works, I got down to ‘re-curate’ to ‘fit’ most of the works in a large hall. And as I was just about to install a painting on the wall, I heard the gallerist comment, “No, don’t put this there. Put this painting (referring to a canvas) as it will sell faster when displayed in this hall.”
So now, I was curating to sell.
In the next few hours, I had already changed the curation and sadly to say, lost my interest in the show. But a commitment is a commitment and I have tried to make the exhibition as ‘beautiful’ as possible. I am also very sure that when I go back to finish the installation, I will find that the gallery already full, the gallerist finishing the balance without my assistance. Is this the way we work? Is this how artists behave worldwide? Is it just a cool party where everybody lands up to have a drink and network?
I think this is way India works. I recently, in an opening in America, I heard the term that Indians are ‘last-minute’ people, as everything happens the last minute. I believe the statement is true because even after a year, my artists are complaining that there wasn’t much time given to them. While the American show still managed to be successful, I am not too sure about the fate of this one.