How does art from 22 countries come together in a single show?

“Art from Elsewhere: International Contemporary Art from UK Galleries”, the Hayward Touring exhibition with support from the Art Fund, brings together works that “depict different realities of profound global change”. Art Radar spoke to the exhibition’s curator David Elliott to find out more.

Installation view of "Art from Elsewhere. International Contemporary Art from UK Galleries", at Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), Glasgow, 2014. Image courtesy Rachel Marsden.

Installation view of “Art from Elsewhere. International Contemporary Art from UK Galleries”, at Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), Glasgow, 2014. Photo: Rachel Marsden. Image courtesy Rachel Marsden.

Art from Elsewhere: International Contemporary Art from UK Galleries” (PDF download) is on show at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in Glasgow from 24 October 2014 until 1 February 2015. The exhibition will then tour to other UK venues:

  • Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
 – 14 February to 31 May 2015
  • Mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art)
 – 19 June to 27 September 2015
  • Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston
 – 10 October to 30 November 2015
  • Towner, Eastbourne
 – 23 January to 3 April 2016
  • Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, and Arnolfini, Bristol – 22 April to 17 July 2016

Curated by David Elliott, it features seventy works by 39 artists from 22 countries, where the show adapts accordingly as it moves between the six galleries and museums on the exhibition tour. The exhibition draws on and highlights works from their collections that have been built through Art Fund International, an innovative collecting initiative conceived in 2007.

Shilpa Gupta, 'There is No Border Here', 2006 © Shilpa Gupta. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris.

Shilpa Gupta, ‘There is No Border Here’, 2006. © Shilpa Gupta. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris.

The exhibition recognises the vital importance of continuing to enrich collections of contemporary art throughout the United Kingdom. It gives an overview of some of the most influential artists working globally today through examining various themes – personal oral and written historical narratives, class systems, peripheral communities, political oppression, anthropology, sociocultural commentary, urban engagement and psycho-geographies of space – ultimately, something everyone can find a place within.

During the launch of the inaugural exhibition in Glasgow, Art Radar talked to curator David Elliott about his vision for the exhibitions and how they will adapt as the tour goes along.

Yael Bartana, 'Summer Camp', 2007. © Yael Bartana. Image courtesy Annet Gelink, Amsterdam.

Yael Bartana, ‘Summer Camp’, 2007. © Yael Bartana. Image courtesy Annet Gelink, Amsterdam.

Do you want to take us through the process of how you chose the works?

The whole process of choosing the works was going to each venue and seeing the works.

Were you responsible for choosing the venues?

Hayward Touring arranged all the venues. All the venues are participating museums except the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, which is an additional museum. It was a process of going out, having a look, seeing what had been bought and getting a feel for it, then sitting down and then thinking: what would a good show be out of all that? And then looking at each venue, the plans of each space, thinking what would make sense. I tried to have relatively few works from Glasgow here at GoMA. Some of the works are shown here to audiences for the first time.

So is it fragmented in each venue?

Yes, it will be different in each venue.

Emily Jacir, 'Crossing Surda (a record of going to and from work)', 2002. © Emily Jacir. Image courtesy Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London.

Emily Jacir, ‘Crossing Surda (a record of going to and from work)’, 2002. © Emily Jacir. Image courtesy Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London.

Is there a different thematic in that way?

No. ‘‘Art from Elsewhere” operates on several levels. It is an exhibition of contemporary art, but why is “contemporary” necessary? I ask this particularly in relation to regional museums, to places, to histories, to traditions, to memories, to desires of their own. It was a great opportunity for the regional venues to develop and grow a collection – and when I say develop, I mean work with what you already have; and when I say collect, I mean to step outside the box to see how the world has changed.

Today is a capitalist free-for-all where we must question – is the art any good? And what do we mean by good? Good for whom? These questions are my job to reconcile as a curator. The hyper-pricing of art makes it difficult, and curators are not as informed as they used to be and often think they are above themselves. You learn, you begin, you grow, you change as the world changes around you.

Western Europe and North America are inflammatory to show anything outside of that, where it is often called “ethnic”, amongst other words. It is expansion, change, growing, curiosity  – not about “exoticism” or “utopia” – the latter a word that means nowhere and no place, never get there, never will, might be able to get somewhere else.

Individual artists are looking outside at the world and are of a high quality. This exhibition is the tip of the iceberg – the here and now, what can or could be done with proper public funding, in public spaces.

“Art from Elsewhere” is therefore reflected in different ways in each venue, dependent on the architecture of the space and what is available. Here at GoMA, we had problems with air conditioning and thus conservation, so certain works couldn’t be shown. That was a very concrete consideration, whereas other venues will be easier and we will be able to choose anything, but then it comes down to how the space will work.

Yang Zhenzhong, 'Let's Puff', 2002. © Yang Zhenzhong. Image courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery.

Yang Zhenzhong, ‘Let’s Puff’, 2002. © Yang Zhenzhong. Image courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery.

Do you see the space, the gallery, on a local level, impacting the show as well?

Totally. Wherever I’m showing is local. Whatever show it is, the space is very important. Curatorially, in conceiving the show, they’re very important because they have these imprints and memories that have happened and are happening. For example, artists Romuald Hazoumè and Meschac Gaba, both from Benin in West Africa, deal with the same issues of authorship and ethnography but in very different ways.

Are there any key issues you want people to see in the show, especially in terms of this relationship to the changing global domain?

Yes – the fact that it is all anti-racist, anti-isolation, and this seems to be getting big – becoming anti-nationalist. They are such broad subjects. We are in a very unstable time at the moment. It’s not anyone’s making, it is a whole bunch of considerations. It is institutional greed and cynical erosion of personal freedoms, and because of this no one has any high ground. The West no longer claims to have high ground – that would be hypocritical. Where does that leave us? It puts us in a situation where we have to change. We have the structures whereby you should be able to have a free world… but how to do it and not to have a revolution? I haven’t seen one work yet. They end up in blood, and that’s the last thing the world wants.

Ola Kolehmainen, 'Shadow of Church', 2006. © Ola Kolehmainen. Image courtesy the artist.

Ola Kolehmainen, ‘Shadow of Church’, 2006. © Ola Kolehmainen. Image courtesy the artist.

In relation to “Art from Elsewhere” and the many embedded histories, it is therefore very socio-politically grounded. Do you want a common ground to be read from that or an individual association?

There is common ground through a shared humanity, migration, borders – very simple ideas – then the emotions that are attached to those are important. This is a show that gives you an education, where you see things you have never seen before. On top of that, it is art, it is something that has a lapidary quality of its own.

Are there any works that have held more resonance personally for you in the show?

It is hard to say. When you know artists, it is different, such as Helsinki artist, Ola Kolehmainan, is a friend of mine, and so is Yeesookyung. I also know Romuald Hazoumè and Jitish Kallat.

Personally, I was really pleased to see the Carl Andre “Seven Books of Poetry” series (1969), as they are works that have obviously not been possible to delve into, but they’re much more complex and multi-layered. They really relate to other poetry in a sense that they become sculpture – that is one of the clichés, they say – it is also one of the things that Lawrence Weiner, another artist in the show, says. In a sense they are sculptures, but they are many other things. They want to have their cake and eat it – to be an object and a sculpture, not to be a metaphor, but you can’t avoid it. Words are metaphorical of things and by using a chain of them you are then walking into poetry.

Yang Zhenzhong, 'Let's Puff', 2002. © Yang Zhenzhong. Image courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery.

Yang Zhenzhong, ‘Let’s Puff’, 2002. © Yang Zhenzhong. Image courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery.

There is a lot of beautiful, subtle poetic narrative in this show, in either in a semiotic sense or in a natural, verbal sense.

That’s important, as exhibitions are stories – without beginnings or endings.

Rachel Marsden

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Related Topics: curatorial practice, touring exhibitions, interviews, events in the UK

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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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