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Sometimes an idea come first and I know immediately that I want to run with it. / Jo Bloxham
Interview part of the Serie under the title Selecting: Communicating Knowledge.
What is the main function of a curator?
I see my main function as a curator to encourage the artists involved to respond to a brief with total creative freedom. To remove any preconceived ideas of what constitutes jewellery, and to encourage them to step outside their comfort zone and create something new, be it in materials, scale or context.
It is also important to be the stepping-stone between the artists and the venue. For example, if I am curating an exhibition for Manchester Art Gallery, the gallery may know nothing about a particular artist as the gallery is still relatively new in showcasing jewellery. Therefore, it is my job to carry out the wishes of the artist, wherever possible, with the display of their work within any given boundaries. I will have chosen particular artists because I admire and respect their work, it is therefore my responsibility to show it in the context in which it was intended.
It is also important to me that the gallery is happy with the exhibition and it's contents - after all I want them to invite me back!
Detail of pieces by Jivan Astfalck for Black on Black at Manchester Art Gallery. 2015
- It is important to me to enable jewellery to be seen by a new audience, to elevate jewellery, to gain the respect and acceptance as a fine art form.
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?
A curator is still very much an overseer, and certainly there is a huge amount of multitasking involved, but I consider myself to be an enabler. It is important to me to enable jewellery to be seen by a new audience, to elevate jewellery, and the artists who create it, to gain the respect and acceptance as a fine art form, which I think it deserves. So, my particular mission is to promote jewellery, and have it seen, alongside fine/contemporary art exhibitions, in venues where there is already a huge audience, but that audience may be seeing jewellery of this kind for the first time. This gives me a great feeling of satisfaction, and when this happens I feel I am doing my job properly.
What is the favourite / dislike part of your work?
The favourite part is easy. After many months of planning an exhibition and the work finally starts to arrive on my doorstep. A box will arrive and the excitement on opening it, not knowing what will be inside, never goes away. I am often moved to tears when I open a box and find something incredible inside - something that has so obviously been made with so much care and attention to detail; something which is personal, and has come from the heart of the artist. This makes the aspects of my role that I don't particularly like seem unimportant.
- Sometimes an idea come first and I know immediately that I want to run with it. Other times I am asked by a gallery to curate an exhibition for them, and I may panic because I think I have no new ideas.
Regarding to curatorial process, how does an idea usually start for an exhibition? And how do you develop it?
Sometimes an idea come first and I know immediately that I want to run with it. For example, I had an idea for an exhibition in a small gallery in the South of France, called Espace Solidor. It was a bit nerve-racking to knock on the door of the local mayors office and speak about my idea, particularly as my French was almost non-existent. But, they said yes. Then comes the months of research needed to develop the idea. Luckily, Ben Lignel agreed to co-curate this exhibition, called Mirror-Mirror, which was useful as his French is somewhat more advanced than mine! This led to the idea developing in an unexpected way, which was largely due to the input from Ben, which gave the exhibition a whole new, and exciting dimension.
Other times I am asked by a gallery to curate an exhibition for them, and I may panic because I think I have no new ideas. Then, serendipity rears it's pretty little head, and an idea is born. For example, during a jewellery conference in Mexico City in 2010 I met Mike Holmes from Velvet da Vinci. He asked me to curate an exhibition for his gallery in San Francisco, which I was hugely flattered by as I wasn't aware he even knew I existed. I then began to worry about what I would do for him......then it happened! The volcano eruption in Iceland (whose name I can't spell) left a huge number of us stranded in Mexico under the ash cloud. And, the idea for Under that Cloud was born. An exhibition inspired by those events and our time in Mexico, which travelled to Velvet da Vinci, Galerie Spektrum, in Munich, Manchester Art Gallery and Klimt02 Gallery, in Barcelona.
Bracelet by Caroline Broadhead. Under that Cloud. 2010
What do you think is the most interesting thing that you helped to make happen?
In 2005 I visited Lisbon, in Portugal for an Ars Ornata Europeana symposium, organised by Cristina Filipe.
I decided we would host the next symposium in Manchester. After almost 2 years of very hard graft, a colleague, Sarah O’Hana and I brought AOE to Manchester. This was a proud moment for me - to see so many familiar faces from across Europe and beyond, in my home town discussing our mutual passions!
What has been your most memorable response by a colleague to an artwork shown in an exhibition curated by you?
When I put on an exhibition called The Sting of Passion - an exhibition made in response to Manchester Art Gallery's permanent collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings. I was surprised to find that mima bought one of the most challenging pieces in the show. A brutal concrete and broken glass neckpiece, by Kepa Karmona.
The Present by Kepa Karmona. 2009
The curatorial project you could never made up?
The next one!
Jo Bloxham is an Independent jewellery curator and collector, based in Manchester, UK.
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