Exhibition Maker

The arrival and establishment of the independent curator, is acknowledged to have derived from the practice of Harald Szeemann, Swiss curator, 1932 -2005. Having served his time and worked on a programme of museum context exhibitions at the Bern, Kunsthalle, he learnt the craft of exhibition making and how to do it. He called himself an exhibition maker as opposed to curator, with its museum connotations. The exhibition maker was less restrained and could take risks. The risk he then took in 1969 to produce the Attitudes became Form exhibition lost him his job; it didn’t fit with the established forms of what to show and how to show it. The bad press was enough to question the nature of this new thinking and possibilities. Within the walls of the gallery there were and perhaps still are ways of doing it and ways not to do it. Szeemann saw this an opportunity to work independently as a curator or exhibition maker, free of the restraints of the museum, free to take risks, free to develop and produce exhibitions as independent outputs. This meant working alone, conceiving the exhibition ideas but still required the collaboration of artists and venues. The idea of a curator working independently of the institution is therefore a relative new role. Szeemann created The Agency for Spiritual Guest work, which he was the only worker as an organisation which produced exhibitions. Was there still the requirement of an organisation to produce exhibitions, it wasn’t an individual activity, it cant be done alone, but as he developed the Agency he found that he only need himself, he had already crafted his skills to make exhibitions – the conceptualising, researching, developing, promoting, the risk-taking.
Szeemann originally started acting and producing theatre, creativity with technical problem solving, creating an illusion. Maybe this was good training to make independent exhibitions. The craft of independent curating and exhibition making therefore seems to not have much connection to museum work and curating. The context of the museum is traditional, instructional and dead. So the curatorial methods are different, they have a different requirements and notions of the exhibition. The independent white space gallery, which evolved through the 1960’s, was a labratory space to test out work, as well as a consumer environment to show and sell product. It was a reaction against the museum and its concerns and credentials. In this development there is also the birth of the independent curator.

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