Published in Neue Luxury | Issue 6
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Forget standard gatekeeping. In today’s art world, a prime time curator is expected to toggle between curator, critic, writer, historian, researcher, broker and advocate. Limitless in their drive to forecast, translate and influence their spheres, a curator must also rigorously keep on top of an escalating orbit of new artists, concepts, spaces, exhibitions and biennials.

From the star curators whose names are among the most uttered, to the rising vanguards carving shapes outside the dominant Western sphere, we uncover the luminaries who are nailing down a new and provocative landscape for contemporary art.


For 40 years, the canals between nature, beauty and environment have been Vervoordt’s calling card. The pioneering Belgian interior designer and antiquarian is currently transforming a former distillery into a hybrid hub of lifestyle, work, nature and culture, dubbed Kanaal: a city in the country. Last year he teamed up with architecture and exhibitions design guru Daniela Ferretti for the second time to curate Proportio at Venice’s Palazzo Fortuny, where Ferretti is director. The avant-garde project explored parallels in art, medicine, science, economics, architecture and music, and included a sound based collaboration between Marina Abramovic and sci-fi writer Kim Stanley Robinson.


In 2012 ArtReview anointed Carolyn Christov-Bakaragiev first position in its Power 100 list—the first time a curator or a woman topped the index. That same year, the American writer and art historian boldly expanded dOCUMENTA 13’s traditional visual art curriculum by curating philosophers, historians and theorists. Christov-Bakargiev, who once described art as a type of ‘renewable energy’ for its mutative abilities, goes double duty this year as director of Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna and Castello di Rivoli, both in Turin.


The American curator spent eight years working her way up from associate curator to director at REDCAT in Los Angeles, where her collaboration with Tokyo architecture firm Atelier Bow-Wow received praise. A Warhol Foundation fellowship in 2010 enabled the former Frieze London/New York curator to research independent art spaces and alternative practices in Latin America and Asia. Kim’s radar is currently set on Tate Modern’s growing collection of non Western art through her new role as Daskalopoulos Senior Curator of International Art.


Since hosting his first group show in his kitchen featuring Christian Boltanski, the in-demand Swiss curator, art historian and writer has presented over 300 exhibitions. The co-director of London’s Serpentine Gallery and author of A Brief History of Curating is also known for conducting 24 hour marathon interviews with luminaries of art, science and history. Obrist, whose favourite word is said to be ‘urgent’, will launch the Shanghai Project in 2016 as a cross-disciplined inquiry into the effects of global warming.


The French art historian and curator has a penchant for defying hierarchical and geographical conventions. For Magiciens de la Terre at Paris’ Centre Georges Pompidou, Martin showcased Western artists alongside lesser known counterparts from Africa, Asia and Latin America—an unusual move in 1989. His memorable Theatre of the World at Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art in 2012 saw top hits by Damien Hirst, Alberto Giacometti and Sol LeWitt cast alongside an Egyptian sarcophagus, animal skeletons and tribal shields.


For eight years, the German art critic and curator directed the Instituto Inhotim in Minas Gerais, which, despite its far flung location, became one of Brazil’s most popular museums. Volz spent three years programming at Serpentine Gallery, and has worked on large scale projects with Matthew Barney and Doris Salcedo. Considered a biennale doyen, he steered the Venice Biennale (2009) and the Nagoya’s Aichi Triennale (2010), and in 2016 he examined themes of ‘uncertainty’ through his curation of the São Paulo Biennial.


The cutting edge British curator has encouraged artists to switch disciplines and convinced sculptor Helen Marten to venture into filmmaking and photographer Beck Beasley to pursue performance art. Her innovative slant is evident through her custody of the 2015 Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts in Slovenia, which included a cathedral sculpture floating down a river, historical drawings morphed into kinetic objects and streetlights hacked by new media programs. Lees also tackled London’s prestigious Frieze Projects from 2013–15.

Images top to bottom: Alex Vervoordt & Daniela Ferretti, Photo: Nally Bellati | Carolyn Christov-Bakaragiev, Photo: Alessandro Alber |Clara M. Kim, Photo: Jonathan Leibson | Hans Ulrich Obrist, Photo: Pal Hansen | Jean-Hubert Martin, Photo: Dominic Faget | Jochen Volz, Photo: Leila Fugili | Nicola Lees, Photo: Lewis Ronald.