— Interview with Alexander Jean Edvard le Sage de Fontenay (Iceland)
When did you start curating? Tell us something about your educational background?
During my last couple of years in highschool (Menntaskólinn við Hamrahlíð) I attended numerous of art history classes and art classes. I had an especially inspirational art teacher that year, Louise Hazell A Harris, and I believe I am lucky that she has taught me. The first art show were I was directly involved in the planning, was held on my graduating year. It was an exhibition of her student’s works from one of her classes, which I went to as well. At her request, I helped the teacher promote it in my school, gather art pieces and I even made a flyer.
For me, the ball actually only started rolling for me quite recently. After I began studying Art History at The University of Iceland I got involved in a number of things. I started writing for the school paper (Stúdentablaðið), helped plan events for students studying art history and last but not least, opened a gallery with a few of my fellow students, called Artíma gallery. The reason we went into doing this was in our opinion a lack of practical courses which are available for art history students. This way we get to exercise our curatorial skills.
Our first exhibition opened in October last year (2011). I have been involved in two shows so far. The first one being a group exhibition of works by 14 artists from The Iceland Academy Of Arts. The second exhibition was called S/H/91-93 and was also a group exhibition of ten black & white works by ten artists who all study primary art education.
What is the artistic field of your curatorial practice?
I enjoy making art myself. I guess the artistic field of my curatorial practice is having a say in what art pieces are ultimately selected by the artists, arranging the pieces to ensure that the right mood is achieved in the exhibition space and also helping the artist find the best suitable way for his works to be presented.
Is there a difference in curating different field of arts, etc. paintings, videos, interactive works or a piece of net art?
Of course. Each medium has a mind of it’s own. The best exhibitions in my opinion, are those that include works of different mediums. And where the art pieces are arranged according to the nature of each exhibition space. In S/H/91-93 I had a few installations and a number of wall based works. I nurtured the artists needs while also filling the space accordingly, to create diversity. I tried to create a contrast with the wall-based art and used the installations in between to maintain balance.
From S/H/91-93. #1. “Án titils” by Magnús Ingvar Ágústsson #2. “Út fyrir rammann” by Krista Alexandersdóttir #3. “Undir smásjá” by Sólveig Eir Steward #4. “Eðlislega óeðlislægt” by Kristín Þorláksdóttir
What kind of qualities do you think a curator should have?
I think a curator should be personable and friendly. It is important for him to have a good relationship with the artist (or artists). He should be able to keep cool at all times. He should do little things like bring a pizza when those finishing touches are being added the night before opening a show. While he should be friendly he should have leader skills and determination. A lot of things may be riding on a show. But regardless if the show is a success or not, the artist (or artists) should have confidence in the curator.
Do you think that new and digital media used in contemporary art has brought new aspects to arts and curating? Yes or no, explain why?
Internet art has been around since the mid 1990s. Since then it has evolved and so has, obviously, all technology. There was a “revolution” in digital video, making it easier for more artists to work with video. So that’s a definite: Yes.
In times of “You Tube” and the Internet, do you think a curator is still needed?
Yes. I think the curator will always play an important role in the art world. Websites such as Youtube, Vimeo, Flickr, Deviant art, Tumblr to name a few, have made it a lot easier for artists to promote themselves. It has also helped a lot of people find what they’re looking for and to discover new things. This does not make a curator less needed. I believe that just like people won’t stop talking to their friends in real life (offline) they won’t stop going to galleries and museums. Because seeing a work of art online is never the same thing as seeing it face-to-face as a part of an exhibition. Period.
What are your curatorial plans for the future? What are your personal wishes, hopes and perspectives in curating?
In April I will be curating an art show in Artíma gallery. It’s going to be the collected works of a couple of vivacious girls. They have shown a lot of potential. One of them is studying fine arts at The Iceland Academy of Arts and the other is in Reykjavik School of Visual Art. It is going to be collaborative work and some independent work from both of them. Video art, a few sculptures and I’m pretty sure there will be some wall-based art as well. I’m excited about that. In June there will hopefully be a big group exhibition to welcome the summer. There has been a discussion of collaborating with another student gallery, run by the fine arts department at The Iceland Academy of Arts. I would like to be part of that.
My wish is that future art galleries that are in similar scale as Artíma won’t have a hard time gathering funding. Unfortunately, today it is quite a task for galleries (even bigger ones than Artíma) to do this. Me and many of my fellow students are in agreement that for art to flourish “the little guys” have to be given some air to breathe.
Curators should be able to work completely hand-in-hand with artists. This is THEIR world. Artists are not supposed to be scared of consulting or collaborating with artist and vice versa.
What is the future of professional curating from your point of view?
Art history as we know it began in the 19th century. The University Of Iceland began offering art history courses less than a decade ago. In just that time a lot has happened. Curators have gotten more attention in Iceland. I believe things will only get better. In times of lessened funds towards the strengthening of artistic practice, I think interest in art and art history will thrive. As long as people keep working hard for what they believe in and others keep showing their support. Lengi lifi listfræðin! (e. long live art history).
From S/H/91-93. #1. “Triptych” by Valdemar Árni Guðmundsson #2. “Femme Individuelle” by Dýrfinna Benita Garðarsdóttir #3. “Lord Donald is a Pale Horse” by Eysteinn Þórðarson #4. “Undir smásjá” by Sólveig Eir Steward
Photographs by Fritz Hendrik Berndsen IV
Alexander Jean Edvard le Sage de Fontenay (1991) is an art history student at University of Iceland. Despite young age, Alexander is already taking his first steps as a curator. He is a member of Artíma gallerí, a curator run gallery in Reykajvik, managed by students of The University of Iceland. Alexander has been involved in two exhibition in the gallery so far, but Konsthopp first met him at the “S/H/91-93” where he curated ten black & white works by equally many artists. He will next be curating an exhibition at the gallery in April. We are already looking forward to keep an eye on this fireball in the future.