Meet Alice Tappenden
A few weeks ago, I was out at dinner and found myself sitting next to someone I hadn’t met before. Talk soon turned to our jobs, and I mentioned I was undertaking a Curatorial Internship here at The Dowse. My art world bubble hadn’t been burst in a while, and it turned out that not only had I never heard of her job (a highly specialised field of dentistry, in case you’re wondering), but that she wasn’t quite sure what a curator did either.
I stumbled out something about curators being the people who decide what goes on the walls; who work with artists on exhibitions; and who help look after collections. She seemed satisfied, but it was another reminder that many people assume curators are the ones swanning around in brogues, speaking in jargon-filled tongues, and going out to fancy dinners with art collecters. While these stereotypes are sometimes true (especially the part about the brogues), since I started at The Dowse in June I’ve found out much more about the reality of just what a curator does.
As the 2015 Blumhardt/Creative New Zealand Curatorial Intern, this year I have the exciting task of curating an exhibition for The Dowse’s Blumhardt Gallery, which will open in March 2016. I’ve finally settled on a title—this is the cup of your heart—and most of the artworks are locked in. The works will come together around a theme of absence, like that we experience when losing someone we love, longing for someone we don’t have, or being nostalgic for past experiences. They span a range of mediums, including jewellery, ceramics, sculpture, video and photography, and while most have been made in the past ten or twenty years, one work is from the late 1800s. It hasn’t been just a matter of picking and choosing which works I’d like from The Dowse’s collection; they’re all coming either directly from the artists themselves, collectors, or other institutions.
For me, the most interesting and rewarding part of the experience has been working with these amazing artists—finding out their motivations, how they like to work, and how they see their art within the context of the exhibition. The rest of it, of course, are the parts you don’t see: sitting on the floors of galleries until my legs seize up, thinking about what will look best where; meeting with our exhibitions team to talk budgets, framing and freight; filling in all the details on excel spreadsheets and updating The Dowse’s collection records. Next up is exhibition design and writing wall labels... and soon, sharing more about just what will be in the show!