Jobs 101 – Curator
Want to know how art exhibitions are set up? We speak to curator Jason Wee to find out how he manages exhibitions with his local art space, Grey Projects.
Every professional or aspiring artist needs a curator to help them exhibit their work. Youth.SG visited Jason Wee, founder of local art space Grey Projects, at his Tiong Bahru exhibition space to find out more about what a curator does.
WHO: Jason Wee, 34
Bachelor of Arts and Social Science (Literature and Political Science) at National University of Singapore (2004)
Masters in Fine Art (Photography) at Parsons
Masters in Architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design (2012)
Tell us more about yourself.
Initially, I thought I was going to be a writer. But I decided to go into photography first. Then I started doing installations and exhibitions.
Why and how did you become a curator?
I wanted to work with people. The misunderstanding of an art student is that you are always working alone. However, some of my best work came from bouncing ideas off other people. I can realise my ideas through the works of others that are already made. So I thought, why don’t I say what I want to say through their (artists) work instead? It also gives me an excuse to write again. I thought of curating as just part of writing as it allows me to write about art.
I did a fellowship (training) programme at the Whitney Museum in 2005. When I returned from New York, I had a space at Zion Road, which I turned into an exhibition space and started Grey Projects. In 2008, I had a great first show with my good friends. Things took off from there. After that show, other artists came by asking me to do shows. I was lucky enough to buy this space (in Tiong Bahru), which is the biggest I’ve ever had.
Describe a typical day at work.
I used to run this with friends, but now we have a permanent core team. Part of my work is coordinating various parts of the Grey Projects programme. We are going to launch a new publication. We produce and sell exhibitions. We are also running residencies and exchanges, meaning we partner with institutions of similar outlooks from overseas, and we exchange artists, ideas and programmes. I also have to select artists to work with, who fit the idiosyncrasy of our space and appeal to our target market (young collectors, art historians, fellow curators). We work with these artists to develop and follow the making of their work.
How long have you been in this industry and how has it changed?
It’s been about nine years. Before, there weren’t many galleries for local art. There were more non-profit spaces. Now there are more galleries and less non-profit spaces.
What is the most memorable experience you have had as a curator?
Back in the small space at Zion Road, we worked with Vertical Submarine to build a labyrinth that people could walk through called The Garden of Forking Paths. Vertical Submarine was really fun to work with and very open. The exhibition ran for the whole of May 2010. It got really good responses and a museum wanted to buy it.
Another good project was the one at Art Stage at the annual Singapore Platform. It was a collaboration with two artists called New Black City. We produced a model of a dream city, a city of the future.
What motivates you in your work?
Other artists. As long as artists keep doing interesting things, it gives me a reason to come to work.
What advice would you give to youths considering being a curator?
If you don’t think about making it rich, and want to make a living based on doing something you believe in, something you can think about all day, something that you can show you are passionate about, then you are suitable to be an artist or a curator.
|Educational requirements: A bachelor’s degree in the humanities, preferably a masters degree in fine arts, art history or a related field.
Qualities needed: An interest and abiding curiosity in what artists do, and an awareness of broader social and political currents.
Working hours: Be willing to work all kinds of hours. The days before an exhibition can be particularly hectic.
Salary range: From $12,000 to $90,000.
Career prospects/advancements/specialisations: You can work for an institution or work independently. Institutions include museums, art foundations, public art agencies, multidisciplinary art centres.