Interview with Nik Apostolides
19 aug 2014 by Stina Gustafsson
Stina Gustafsson talks to Nik Apostolides, Associate Director of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Adjunct Professor at Johns Hopkins University and George Washington University, and Independent Curator. Apostolides talks about how the Internet has affected museums and how it has changed the curatorial approach.
SG: Because of the Internet there is now a potential of reaching a bigger audience, in what ways do you think this affects bigger museums and how do they respond to it?
NA: The Internet has created an almost unfathomable scale of online digital image repositories, such as Facebook. The sheer volume of imagery on Facebook is such that no national museum, private museum, library, gallery, or artist – not even all of them combined – could realistically compare with the number of images housed on a mega platform such as that.
This change in the way people live and engage with digital images and culture has already created a seismic shift that the museum world has been slow to comprehend or adapt to. And, more disruption can be expected, though its impacts are not easily predicted.
SG: How do you think the Internet has affected the quality of art we see today?
NA: The Internet is not primarily a platform to display quality, but rather quantity. However, I am confident that new generations of artists are and will find ways to use the Internet to create beautiful and iconic works of art.
SG: How do you think curation on the Internet will change curatorial approaches?
NA: The Internet and other digital spaces present a unique aesthetic environment that must be studied, considered, and treated as quite different from the three-dimensional physical spaces we have traditionally curated.
As a curator, you must have a vision for the space you are curating – you must literally see how the gallery will look with the works you are going to present. This involves a strong knowledge of both the artworks and the gallery space; if you don’t master both, your efforts will not be fully successful.
Much more attention needs to be paid by curators in digital space of the emotional and visual characteristics of the online areas we curate. We have to begin to think more carefully about how the audience will enter and navigate these digital spaces, and the reaction the spaces we create online will elicit from the public. Without such a deliberate approach to digital curating, the public will simply not have the same level of aesthetic and educational experience we have been able to provide in the best-curated physical gallery spaces.
SG: How do you think collaborations between museums and other platforms will develop the curatorial dialogue with the audience?
NA: Collaboration between museums and other platforms is essential to developing not only a meaningful dialogue with the audience, but also better exhibitions for the public.
For an example of this, you only have to look at the marvellous results of recent collaborations between museums and other platforms, such as the ’68-’89 exhibition created jointly by the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands and the SALT gallery in Istanbul.
For cultural organizations to maintain a relevant dialogue with the public, we must collaborate with a variety of platforms that take us well out of our “comfort zone.” In other words, we have to behave more like the artists we showcase; we have to be more creative!
SG: What’s your personal view on platforms like art:i:curate which are trying to engage with the audience by encouraging them to become the curator?
NA: The world needs more curators, and more people with curatorial skills – who can distinguish the bad from the worse, the better from the good, and who know how to tell stories using images and artists. These activities are essential to being human in the best sense of that word. I applaud art:i:curate for creating an innovative online platform that encourages everyone interested in visual art online to get involved, to share what they like; and to learn from each other.
All pictures from the opening of Nik Apostolides’ latest exhibition Mixed Blood by the American visual artist CYJO at the Today Art Museum, Beijing. All images courtesy of CYJO, Today Art Museum and Nik Apostolides.