Curatorial Activism: Towards an Ethics of Curating by Maura ReillyCurrent art world statistics demonstrate that the fight for gender and race equality in the art world is far from over: only sixteen percent of this year’s Venice Biennale artists were female; only fourteen percent of the work displayed at MoMA in 2016 was by nonwhite artists; only a third of artists represented by U.S. galleries are female, but over two-thirds of students enrolled in art and art-history programs are young women.
Arranged in thematic sections focusing on feminism, race, and sexuality, Curatorial Activism examines and illustrates pioneering examples of exhibitions that have broken down boundaries and demonstrated that new approaches are possible, from Linda Nochlin’s “Women Artists” at LACMA in the mid-1970s to Jean-Hubert Martin’s “Carambolages” in 2016 at the Grand Palais in Paris. Profiles key exhibitions by pioneering curators including Okwui Enwezor, Linda Nochlin, Jean-Hubert Martin and Nan Goldin, with a foreword by Lucy Lippard, internationally known art critic, activist and curator, and early champion of feminist art, this volume is both an invaluable source of practical information for those who understand that institutions must be a driving force in this area and a vital source of inspiration for today’s expanding new generation of curators.
The thesis of my forthcoming book, Curatorial Activism: Towards an Ethics of Curating , takes as its operative assumption that the art system—its history, institutions, market, press, and so forth—is an hegemony that privileges white male creativity to the exclusion of all Other artists. These curators—and others like them interested in art world injustices—have curated everything from biennales and retrospectives to large-scale thematic exhibitions, focusing on both historical and contemporary material. Others are organizing large monographic exhibitions of artists who have been historically overlooked; while others still are curating thematic exhibitions of modern and contemporary art that account for a wider range of voices, not just a select few; others still have produced totalizing critiques of canonicity itself. It is a practice rooted in ethics and, as such, their exhibitions function as curatorial correctives to the exclusion of Other artists from either the master narratives of art history, or from the contemporary art scene itself. This book is a celebration of these and other curatorial activist projects that have demonstrated that new approaches to curating are possible. It insists that there is a moral emergency in the art world; indeed, there has been for a long time.
Curatorial Activism. Forewords by Lucy R. Indeed, the more closely one examines the numbers, the more glaring it becomes that white, Euro-American, heterosexual, privileged and, above all, male artists continue to dominate the art world. The fight for gender and race equality continues apace. Curatorial Activism provides us with much needed moments of self-reflection and institutional critique. In her book, Maura Reilly looks into details at the pioneering exhibitions that have bravely challenged assumptions and leveled hierarchies. She also discusses the most successful tactics for addressing inequality, charting their potential, their flaws and the difficult questions they raise: how do you avoid ghettoizing the work of Other artists?