Laura Smith

Curator at Tate St Ives for three years, previously an assistant curator at Nottingham Contemporary.

She is responsible for solo & group exhibitions in the gallery. Work comes from both living & dead artists, chosen from a catalogue. Artists are commissioned; they get paid a fee and production costs. Works with other galleries / estates.

Aquatopia exhibition consisted of 200 works; the curator writes to people for permission to use their work — quicker and easier if the artist is alive — contact is started around two years before the show. Currently working on a group exhibition for 2018. There’s a wishlist of 600ish works — curator needs to find out who they belong to, where they are, if they fit in the gallery and can be transported etc. Tate St Ives holds three exhibitions a year; one British alive, one British dead plus international / group. Some works are booked years in advance. Mini copies of each piece of work are blue tacked in different orders to decide on the gallery layout. Ethics have to be considered — nudity, animal cruelty etc — dependant on location as well eg ST Ives is popular with families. Curator talks to marketing teams to find out how the artist wants to be portrayed etc, then writes improvised text / descriptions of their work. It takes two weeks to set up a show.

They have a residency programme — a studio for one month — six without a prescribed outcome (less pressure), where curators talk with you about your work, go to parties & network etc; only downside is having to give a talk at Falmouth Uni.

Learning curators programme events, talks screenings etc that go alongside exhibitions. Also visit other exhibitions, studios, talks etc.

Smith goes to London once a month for meetings with other Tate curators, reads art reviews for research; conducts audience surveys.

Has BA in fine art from Glasgow School of Art but is more interested in other people’s work than making her own. MA in Art History at Falmouth (part time) whilst waitressing and internship at Plymouth Arts Centre.

For self exhibitions — empty buildings get offered to students for exhibitions for free / cheap; alcohol sponsorship; press & promotion.

For an Arts Council England grant — 8,000 word application, £10,000, 6 weeks for them to decide.

She curated her own show with funding from; a foundation in Portugal gave £5,000, creative Scotland gave £5,000 & Arts Council England. 12 artists from a combination of mediums — live event as well as hanging work. Lasted for a month; active, diverse — large audience; made a book at £1 a copy. Martin Clark (artistic director) went to the exhibition — they built up a relationship and she started writing things for his Tate exhibitions if the curator was ill etc.

Also MA in curating at RCA London for two years consisting of group work amongst ten people; six days a week of 9–5. Take roles in turn — marketing, curating etc — freelance, assisting, learning. (Goldsmiths course is more commercial; includes selling artists work, earning £££)

‘Ritual without Myth’ exhibition. ‘Get people drunk and they will love it’.

Different types of wooden crates from different countries etc, works in an exhibition need to be photographed for books eg ‘Kafou’ exhibition / book.

Go to & have smaller / self led shows to meet contacts; research interests meet exhibition needs.

Issues: unkown artists, especially with old work — provide date etc instead. Issues with provenance; who bought it — seized in world wars / immune from seizure etc (law related things). Also ETHICS — check purchase history for each piece of work, put it online so people can see / check.

Don’t send your work to galleries; if work enters the Tate it can’t be mailed back normally; it’s the Tate’s responsibility so it has to be ‘fine art shipped’ which is expensive. Emails rarely work unless there’s a connection to the curator; too many emails, not enough time, annoying.

NETWORK! Go to / organise things / invite people — google curators so you’ll recognise them, introduce yourself / ask questions at talks / ask for their card / give them yours. Start conversations, make yourself memorable.

TIMING — if a big show is on in Plymouth at the same time as yours, people are more likely to see it because they are already in the area. Face to face — ask if they’ll meet for coffee and discuss your work. Check out spaces / do a small, short show. offer don’t ask. Pop up places. Peninsula Arts, Karst.

Apply for residencies — listings of residencies all over the world (paid & unpaid). Different types — research based, art based etc. The Elephant Trust — specific fundings for certain places, ideas etc. Embassies will help lower the cost of artist travel and send alcohol.

Performance to camera (London exhibition).

Practice writing funding applications etc.

Community engagement.

Business card examples: Blanks — my name is… I met you at…, make it personal, varieties — let people choose their own! Comedy value. ‘Won’t get you noticed but it’ll get you remembered’.

Paul Goganin, Lucy Stein, Hannah Jones.

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