Interview with Natasha Hoare, Dialogues Curator, London Art Fair

London Art Fair returns for its 28th edition this week with a host of special talks, programmes and gallery sectors. The annual fair is a key industry event where collectors of all levels can discover Modern British artworks alongside innovative contemporary pieces from some of today’s leading practitioners. Forming part of this year’s event are two specially curated sections, Art Projects and Photo50, which focus on younger galleries, new work and contemporary photography. In 2016, Art Projects takes on the theme of ‘Dialogues’ and features collaborative presentations from invited UK and international galleries such as Copperfield (London) and NEST (The Hague), Division of Labour (Worcester) and NOME (Berlin), and l’étrangère (London) and Base-Alpha Gallery (Antwerp). We speak to guest curator Natasha Hoare about this year’s Art Projects participants, as well as her ongoing work as Associate Curator at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam.

A: Can you tell us a bit about the motivation behind Dialogues?
NH: Dialogues seeks to bring international galleries into direct contact with British ones in order to stage presentations within the London Art Fair. The project offers an opportunity to establish both new contexts for their artists and readings of their works. Hopefully the experience will bring about lasting relationships that transcend the model of competition and establish collaboration and exchange as generative working models.

A: Dialogues is returning for its third edition at London Art Fair. What can visitors expect this year?
NH: The galleries in this year’s Dialogues bring a risk-taking attitude to their projects – showing films, staging performances and sculptural installations on the booths in a way that works against conservative models of art fair presentation. There are interesting points of contact between galleries for visitors to trace, for instance All Together Now and The RYDER both share an interest in performance, whilst NOME and Division of Labour represent artists who critically engage with contemporary political and social issues such as surveillance and privacy. I think another highlight this year will be l’étrangère’s presentation of new works by artist Katie Cuddon, seen in an installation form these anthropomorphic ceramic sculptures should make a beautiful incursion into the fair – balanced by their partner gallery Base Alpha gallery’s group presentation.

A: There are five collaborations this year within Dialogues between galleries around the world. What do these international partnerships bring to the fair?
NH: I think these partnerships bring diverse artistic voices to the fair and establishes an international context for contemporary art making in general. It also allows for a different curatorial process to be made evident across the Art Projects section of the fair, which adds to the visitors’ experience and hopefully stimulates gallerists to adopt new strategies of display and collaboration.

A: You are also Associate Curator at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam. What are the major projects you are currently working on?
NH: I am currently working on a show of new performances by artist Michael Portnoy called Relational Stalinism – The Musical, which opens on 28 January. The exhibition is an ambitious one that will see a number of scenarios played out across one floor of the museum, mixing inscrutable role-play scenarios, experimental sketch comedy, hyperactive spectatorship, melodramatic operatic interlude, prog-rock micro-dance and teary-eyed theoretical soliloquy. We are also working on a new year-long commission series called Para | Fictions that explores the cross contamination of literature and visual arts through the work of six artists. We kick off with Calla Henkel & Max Pitegoff, and then follow the development of new works by Oscar Santillan, Lucy Skaer, Mark Geffriaud and Laure Prouvost.

A: What have you discovered in completing your book The New Curator which contains interviews with curators from around the world? Are there certain trends forming in the curatorial world?
NH: I think there is such diversity in the field of curating that it is hard to extract any one trend. The book gathers the manifold voices of individuals engaged in long-standing and ever-developing research within specific social and political contexts. Many works with the same artists over substantial periods of time, thinking alongside and with them around the issues and modes of production that constitute their works, opening out practice and adding complexity through contact with various publics. Some view themselves more clearly as producers, engaged with the limitations, logistics and labyrinthine bureaucracies of making art public. The making of exhibitions has also notably been extended outwards to include ‘non-artists’ such as philosophers, scientists, anthropologists, writers and mathematicians, whose work is both a source material for artworks, influences the very structure of programming, and manifests as a part of exhibitions itself.

London Art Fair, 20-24 January, Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, London N1 0QH.

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1. Katie Cuddon, Public Imagination, 2013. Drawing, mixed media. Courtesy of l’étrangère and London Art Fair.