Part 2 of a 3 part series on Ireland at Venice 2013
This might sound funny, but I think there is a sense that Venice is akin to the Olympics of art, especially in a smaller nation like Ireland. What are your thoughts on ‘National Representation’? And how this worked out?
It is a big deal to represent your country on any platform. Richard and I were both very proud to be selected and then really happy that the Irish Pavilion received such an immense amount of press and attention. It was immensely rewarding.
Obviously Infra was a body of work Richard had developed a few years prior and The Enclave being an extension of this. What was the process of developing the exhibition like? Did you work very closely with Richard? Or was he developing the work already? I saw the beginnings of the 16mm film work and was impressed with the multi-screen approach. Richard was working on this body of film work for over a year. When we got the invitation to represent Ireland in the Venice Biennale Richard returned to the Congo to secure further footage. The contract for Fondaco Marcello, the venue I eventually rented for Ireland, was a year long lease. This allowed Richard to edit the work in the space in March 2013, which was hugely beneficial to him and his editor Trevor Tweeten. I visited him in Venice during this process and had input and discussions with him on the installation for The Enclave and the exhibition design for the photographs. At that time I met with the carpenter, electrician, carpet layer etc. and planned what needed to be done in advance of our opening. We were lucky in that a lot of what was needed to be carried out to transform the space was achieved in April, before there was a demand for the time of every workman in Venice for all the other Pavilions.
The healthy sales of Richard’s photographs has allowed him to develop the production of his film work and helped him to fund his many trips to the Congo. The Jack Shainman Gallery were supportive and helped with the sales of the benefit print, which was produced to assist in the Fundraising to deliver this ambitious and costly presentation.
What were the differences between curating this scale of a show and other exhibitions you have done? Was it a lot of pressure?
I worked in the private sector in New York for many years as an art dealer and have curated six exhibitions a year during my nine year tenure as Director at the Butler Gallery. Delivering The Enclave in Venice and the subsequent Irish Tour was a huge job and ultimately a two year commitment. The challenge is that one continues to have a full-time job also whilst pulling this off, so the double-jobbing is intensive. Yes, it was a lot of pressure, especially the fundraising. I was committing to and spending money I wasn’t sure I would be able to raise so it was intense at times. As it turned out, it all worked out very successfully, which was a huge relief. It was an amazing experience to present a project such as this to a wide international audience and one that I will never forget.
Did you find his project problematical in any way?