The Cultural Fund is extending its support for 4A’s Curators’ Intensive, which biennially since 2012 has encouraged professional advancement amongst early career Australian cultural practitioners with an interest in curatorial practice in the visual arts.
“What’s the difference between a collection of objects and an exhibition that speaks to us? The answer is dynamic curatorial vision,” says Pedro de Almeida, Program Manager and Acting Director of the 4A Centre for Asian Contemporary Art.
“No matter the intrinsic interest of visual art, its broader scope in cultural meaning and context within a platform of public presentation can only be fully explored by meaningful and informed curation,” Pedro says.
“The relationship between the art object, however ephemeral, and an active sensory and intellectual grappling with art by audiences is enhanced when a skilled curator takes a group of works and presents them in dialogue with one another and the complicated, messy, always changing world. That’s not a skill that arrives by chance: it takes awareness, learning practice and, crucially within contemporary art, mutual engagement between flesh and bone people over and above this thing called ‘art’ itself . That’s what the Curators’ Intensive is all about.”
4A developed and delivered two separate Curators’ Intensive programs supported by Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund in 2012 and 2014. The project’s success is being consolidated by broadening its international scope and deepening its collegiate engagement over three Intensive programs delivered biannually in 2016, 2018 and 2020. Importantly, for the first time 4A is planning to present one of the programs in India (2018), giving Australian participants an extraordinary opportunity to focus on South Asian art practice.
The Curators’ Intensive revolves around inviting three curators with prominent international profiles who work in the field of contemporary art in the Asia-Pacific region. They lead a professional development program for 10 Australian participants. Mentor curators conduct an intensive five-day program of public discussions and closed forums, punctuated by field trips to local galleries and artists’ studios with prepared introductions, tours and informal talks with peers in the visual arts sector.
The program creates networking opportunities and professional development for emerging Australian curators while showcasing contemporary Asian art practice in Australia. It also exposes contemporary Australian cultural practice and key cultural producers within the industry to significant international figures.
“Establishing genuine and vital networks between Australian and international cultural practitioners is more important than ever,” Pedro de Almeida says. “Our emerging curators need to know about practices relevant to a globalised environment. Curation is a profession as well as an artistic activity. Professional dialogue and face-to-face relationships are vitally important. Connections between the arts and culture sector are increasing between Australia and Asia. The value of the Curators’ Intensive is also increasing, as a platform for engagement between emerging and established art practitioners across the region and, crucially, one that is independent.”
Pedro’s commitment to international cooperation is born out of experience, himself a Cultural Fund recipient through Copyright Agency’s Career Fund in 2014, having undertaken a secondment at Delfina Foundation, London’s largest provider of residencies for international artists, including many from Asia .
Public engagement with 4A’s Curators’ Intensive in Australia has been excellent. Fully booked keynote presentations to over 400 attendees signal strong local demand for this kind of educational content and intellectual engagement with prominent curators with expertise in Asia. Further, alumni of Curators’ Intensives remain in dialogue through Facebook groups and one-to-one, and have assisted each other in identifying, creating or collaborating on future projects.
Video documentation of Mentor Curators’ keynotes have been re-blogged and posted by contemporary art organisations around the world, and support of the project by Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund is helping emerging Australian curatorial talent reach the national and international arts and arts education sectors.