New York Photo Review
Volume 3 Issue 13.5 April 18 to 24, 2012

Curators’ Choice

Curators’ Choice
Left to right: Moderator, Lindsay Pollock, 
Joshua Chang, Sarah Meister and 
Christopher Phillips by Norman Borden. Source:
Norman Borden, "Left to right:, Lindsay Pollock,
Joshua Chang, Sarah Meister and
Christopher Phillips" 2011

A feature of this year's AIPAD show was "Curators’ Choice: Emerging Artists in Photography" a panel discussion moderated by Lindsay Pollock, editor in chief of Art in America with, Joshua Chuang, assistant curator of photography at Yale University Art Gallery, Sarah Meister, curator of photography, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Christopher Phillips, curator at the International Center of Photography, New York.
With the topic of emerging artists and a panel featuring some marquee names sure to draw a crowd, AIPAD was well prepared this year. It moved its popular Saturday panel discussions to a more comfortable and spacious Hunter College stadium-like lecture hall around the corner from the Armory; there were probably few attendees present who didn’t mind being back in school. The hour-long discussion was lively, engaging and revealing. After all, who could have guessed that the label “emerging artist” can apply to a 50+ year olds as well as to the 20 and 30 somethings we expect to fill their shoes. But that’s what Sarah Meister of MoMA said. And no one disagreed. =

Meister explained that when it’s time for MoMA’s curatorial staff to assemble its annual “New Photography” show, the curators ask, “What does this mean? What are we looking at? What do we mean by new?” Meister said that the museum recognizes that they need to be “supple” in their definition of “new” and to remember that it has nothing to do with age. She mentioned a photographer who was in the New Photography show last year who was born in 1958! The artist had a body of work that the museum found compelling and MoMA decided to include her in the exhibition. “It’s not necessary for us to be first,” Meister said, “It doesn’t have to be someone emerging from an MFA program—we’d rather see someone who has several bodies of work, to see what they’re doing.”

Christopher Phillips added that the idea of sorting photographers into emerging artists and young artists “isn’t useful” now. Phillips, who had been on the staff of Art in America, said the term “young artists” was used inappropriately there since some might have been 40 years old.

Joshua Chuang considers the emerging artist as someone who is “emerging into consciousness.” He said, “I look for a photographer whose work has staying power. Photographers seldom come directly from Yale with a substantial body of work.” He also looks at new work in terms of how it might dialogue with the rest of the Yale collection.

Meister explained how MoMA helps develop artists. “We have a close relationship with PS 1 and we often share artists back and forth.” She also said that MoMA doesn’t currently review portfolios but that “might change.” Phillips said that ICP doesn’t review portfolios anymore. “We looked at the results of our past reviews and saw that it wasn’t productive.” It was encouraging to hear Meister say, “We all care about finding artists, even if you aren’t a darling of Chelsea.”

On the other hand Joshua Chuang said, “ I am totally overwhelmed by the amount of talented artists in the world...I shut myself off from the proliferation of images.” Coming from a curator, I didn’t quite get that.

Some work by emerging talent was shown during the discussion, including images that will be in MoMA’s New Photography show this fall. Meister who presented work by, a collective that was in the Venice Biennial last summer, explained that perhaps the difference between the old and the new was: “They’ve taken snapshots, a personal off-the-cuff aesthetic, and made it a way of taking a Nan Goldin aesthetic that brings it into a 21st century aesthetic where every aspect of their lives is their work and their work is their lives. The irrelevance of who’s taking the picture is part of it.”

Curators’ Choice by Norman Borden