I had the interesting experience of selecting paintings for an exhibition the other day. I work for a Great Big Company and the local council contacted various Groups in the Community to ask for volunteers to pick paintings for a Peoples’ Choice exhibition. (It’s Blairite, but is it Art?) So I said “that’ll be me then” and volunteered.
There were seven or so of us, and we were given an enormous catalogue of the paintings in public ownership in the county, and told to pick three each and state our reasons. (The catalogue turned out to be fascinating and desirable in its own right and, since it’s available from Amazon, I’ve just bought myself a copy. Damn.) The chap was a curator at one of the local museums or art galleries and he encouraged us to be simple and direct in our reasons, giving examples of things that other groups such as school children had said.
It would have been easy to consult with others and pick a whole exhibition of social history, or local faces, or even specifically non-local work, but it was much, much harder to pick just three.
I resisted choosing damaged pictures just because they were damaged which gives them an added layer of meaning in my pretentious world. I resisted picking the local views because that was all a bit too obvious. I resisted two enormous and gloomy portraits of a grimly smug victorian couple which I wanted to pick on the ground that – hey look, these people are so freaking different from people today.
I discovered that when push came to shove I preferred portraits, which was rather depressing. My brow is higher than that, surely? I did steer myself away from just picking portraits and resisted the option to show off by going entirely for abstracts.
It was an interesting insight into the world of the curator and the choices involved in putting together an exhibition. I’ve bought myself a copy of the catalogue of the county’s art collection, and I’m looking forward to the exhibition. I should love it. What better way could there be to arrive at an eclectic mix?