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Curating an exhibition is a way of transmitting, a way of interesting people to a universe that is yours, a way of sharing your passion.
Interview part of the Serie under the title Selecting: Communicating Knowledge.
What is the main function of a curator?
I work for a museum, the mudac, musée de design et d’arts appliqués contemporains in Lausanne, Switzerland (mudac.ch), and one of my functions is to take care of the contemporary jewelry collections. We house two collections: the mudac’s and the Swiss Confederation’s. Every year, I buy new pieces that integrate the corpus of the works. Of course, if you select a piece to join a museum’s collection, you give it a certain status. You choose it among others to be part of a group that makes sense, a group of works that addresses the concerns of the time. The works added to our collections have been evaluate on the basis of their creativity, on how well they reflect current trends, the research aspects of innovation and continuity, and the nationality of their creator.
Preserving works is one of the museum’s main mission. Another mission is to show them. Curating an exhibition is a way of transmitting, a way of interesting people to a universe that is yours, a way of sharing your passion.
Another way of showing jewelry is to make a catalogue. In 2014, I worked on a book Bijoux en jeu which shows the integrality of the pieces of the two jewelry collections housed in the mudac, the mudac contemporary jewelry collection as well as the Swiss Confederation’s collection on deposit in our museum. This catalogue lead to an exhibition, shown at Disseny Hub in Barcelona on fall 2015, invited by Joya, and another one this year at Art Basel, 14-19 June 2016, supported by the Swiss Federal Office for Culture.
It is very important for me to take out the pieces from their drawers and show them to the public. The exhibition Bijoux en jeu is a way to do so.
Display of Bijoux en jeu at Art Basel, 14-19 June 2016
Curator first came into use as meaning overseer, however in 21st century, a curator is probably best known as a ‘multitasked’ for an exhibition, what do you consider yourself in this position as a freelancer?
I am not a freelancer, as I said, I work for a museum, but when I curate an exhibition I also work on the way it is going to been shown. My second task here, in Lausanne, is exhibition designer. I find it particularly interesting to do both. When I start thinking of an exhibition, I really need to visualize it. The exhibition builds itself little by little, the content and the “container” at the same time.
- Exhibitions tend to be more “transversal”, mixing many disciplines (design, graphics, sculptures, installations etc.) and, as jewelry is a medium where you can find this mix in a single piece, it is very interesting to show
How has the work of a curator changed in the last years?
What has mostly changed is a bigger interest in contemporary jewelry in general, in our jewelry collections in particular. For instance, we are more often asked for loans, either for jewelry exhibitions but also for more general exhibitions. Exhibitions tend to be more “transversal”, mixing many disciplines (design, graphics, sculptures, installations etc.) and, as jewelry is a medium where you can find this mix in a single piece, it is very interesting to show.
There is a project for a new museum in Lausanne called Plateforme 10 (www.plateforme10.ch/en), and the mudac will move to this new building in 2020. The exhibition spaces will be bigger and there will be a possibility to show our permanent collections. Jewelry collections will have a space of their own. This will lead to an interesting challenge: how to show them best, which themes to work on, etc.
Project of the new museum in Lausanne Plateforme 10
What is the favorite / dislike part of your work?
I love the researches, looking for works, thinking of the exhibition, writing, organizing, and setting it up. I love creating new contacts, getting to know the creators better. I hate being drown by e-mails.
- You can have an intuition, and the researches that you make comfort you in this intuition, and this first idea develops itself.
Regarding to curatorial process, how does an idea usually start for an exhibition? And how do you develop it?
There are many ways of working.
You can have an intuition, and the researches that you make comfort you in this intuition, and this first idea develops itself. This is what happened when I curated Parures d’ailleurs, parures d’ici: incidences et coïncidences? (Ornaments from There, Ornaments from Here: Incidences, Coincidences?) in 2000, with a friend, Marie Alamir. It was because she was collecting ethnic jewelry and because I had a gallery of contemporary jewelry, the galerie NØ in Lausanne, that our eyes became aware of coincidences in shapes, materials, techniques used in both fields. The idea that we developed was to put these pieces besides each other, not to compare them, but to be able to talk about their differences and to make the public aware of their specificity. This exhibition has been a wonderful adventure. It was surprising as very often, people were wondering if the piece they were looking at was ethnic or contemporary, it was inspiring and we were even able to show works that have never been show since the moment they had been collected!
Parures d’ailleurs, parures d’ici: incidences et coïncidences? (Ornaments from There, Ornaments from Here: Incidences, Coincidences?), 2000
Otherwise, you can give yourself a theme like I did in De main à main (From Hand to Hand) in 2008, where I wanted to show European contemporary jewelry and I had the idea of doing it by showing three generations of jewelers and studying the transmission of the know-how. This lent me to interview all creators and to get a good overview of their career and to realize how much creators had been moving these last years.
De main à main (From Hand to Hand), 2008
Alternatively, you can fall in love with the work of one creator in particular and wish to show it, if it fits in the museum’s exhibitions program. We exhibited Otto Künzli in 2014 and will show David Bielander’s work in February 2017.
Otto Künzli. The exhibition. Jewelry from 1967 to 2012, mudac, 2014
An exhibition, event, meeting... that has impressed you specially?
I was in Paris four weeks ago, where I saw Carambolages the beautiful exhibition from Jean-Hubert Martin in le Grand-Palais.
This exhibition was a pleasure for the eye; it led you from one piece to the other, from a small drawing from Rembrandt to an Inuit anorak, from a watercolor from Hitler to an Indonesian remodeled skull. You just had to let go, the relations between the works were sometimes funny, sometimes obvious. It acted as a revelation.
What has been your most memorable response by a colleague to an artwork shown in an exhibition curated by you?
She was not a colleague; she was someone who did not know anything from the Occidental contemporary art world. When I had my gallery, in 1995, I exhibited in the window a beautiful piece from Verena Sieber-Fuchs. It was called Switzerland and it was more like a textile curtain in steel wire. Made with crocheted tiny candles (the kind of candles you put floating on oil), it looked like a Swiss flag. For Verena, it meant a kind of ex-voto for Switzerland. I noticed a woman looking at it from the street. She stayed so long that I went out of the gallery to talk to her. She was clearly a refugee, wearing a long skirt, a flower scarf on the head and she barely spoke French. However, when I talked to her she said: this is so beautiful!
The curatorial project you could never made up?
I would love to make an exhibition on taste. What is bad taste, what is good taste? Why do people consider this work ugly, as others have the feeling it is beautiful? However, for the moment I haven’t been able to come up with a good way of showing this…
Carole Guinard, (1955) lives and works in Lausanne. Jewelry artist, opened and ran Lausanne’s galerie NØ for contemporary jewelry from 1986 to 1995. Mudac’s installation designer and curator for contemporary jewelry since 1995. Curated in 2000, with Marie Alamir, the exhibition Ornaments from there, ornaments from here: incidences, coincidences? in 2008 and the exhibition From Hand to Hand, passing on skill and know-how in European contemporary jewelry both held at the mudac (Lausanne's museum for design and contemporary applied arts). Curated Bijoux en jeu, travelling exhibition since 2015.
Regularly asked for jurys. Exhibitions since 1982.
Distinctions: Swiss Design Awards (1984, 1986, 1988).
Public collections: Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris / Collection des Arts appliqués, Kornhaus, Berne / Collection de la Confédération et collection du mudac, mudac, Lausanne / Musée de l’Horlogerie, Genève / Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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