Join our mailing list

BEHIND THE SCENES

We speak to Assistant Curator, Victoria Howarth, about some of the challenges faced when curating an exhibition.

What is your role at the gallery?

I work with the Director, Liz, on all of the contemporary exhibitions that we have in our Foreshore gallery and on hangs of the Jerwood Collection. Collections management, conservation and interpretation of the works are also part of my role. I write a lot of the interpretive text which features beside the works on the walls and deliver talks at the gallery.

What have been your main tasks over the past three weeks?

It’s been very busy at the gallery since we closed our Basil Beattie and Philip Guston shows. We’ve had a lot of works leaving and arriving, people on site for various things, and consultation about the hang in different rooms.

It tends to be busier for me when the gallery is closed because that’s when we have to move things around. During these periods I have to arrange transportation, liaise with different galleries, assist in curating different spaces and make sure everything is in place for when we open. I have to ensure that all the labels are in place and the captions are correct, so that when people come to visit the exhibitions, they will know what they are looking at. I also do a bit of staff training on the exhibitions as well.

What challenges do you face when curating a show?

There are so many different things to think about. It’s not what you might think, just presenting the works in the best possible way, there are so many other things you have to keep in mind. The most important thing is to always consider the people who will be visiting the gallery and looking at the works on display. We have to think about what else you’re seeing and how that affects your experience of looking as a whole.

There are always different things to juggle in terms of scale of works and how works react to each other. Then there are really basic things, such as where you are placing a work and the effect that this could have on people moving around the space. For example, we have a sculpture by Kenneth Armitage, which was exhibited as part of our William Scott show. Since then it has been displayed outside the Studio and is now upstairs outside the café. Not only do we have to consider what it looks like in the space, we also have to make sure that visitors can still access the work and move around the building smoothly. It’s a lot to think about.

With this show we wanted to celebrate the gallery being open for two years and the beginnings of the collection as well as its future. We wanted to try and get as many works out of the store for people to enjoy as possible. There are lots of surprises and new works for visitors to see. That in itself has been challenging because there is a limited amount of wall space.

We also have two loan displays, a touring Tate show of works by Marlow Moss and a display of seascapes by Alfred Wallis from Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge; so making everything flow all together has been challenging. I think it’s all looking good though!

What’s your favourite piece from Jerwood Collection: Revealed and why?

A real highlight for me is Craigie Aitchison’s, Crucifixion. It’s such a luminous work and it’s really exciting to have it at the gallery because it has been on long term loan to Hereford Cathedral. It will be the first time the painting has been on display since the gallery has been open. It’s also the painting that won the first Jerwood Painting Prize in 1994, so it’s quite crucial to the beginnings of the genesis of the collection as whole. It was the private collection as well as the different Jerwood art prizes that led to the collection being here today. So it’s quite an important piece to me.

What are you looking forward to working on the most this year?

We have a lot coming up this year but the next show (where my head is also at the same time as the collection display) is Ansel Krut: Verbatim. That will be a really exciting display of quite different works. We try to make our temporary displays different to what you may have seen before at the gallery. Also, the shows for the final half of the year are starting to come together. We’ve got a lot of interesting shows in the pipeline.