West Kowloon Cultural District

Venice Biennale talks to be stepping stone for aspiring curators

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 May, 2015, 11:40am

A series of talks on the Venice Biennale will be held in May ahead of the West Kowloon arts hub's international debut in the "art Olympics".

The four-part educational series, which is free and open to all, aims to give training opportunities to art students and aspiring curators who might otherwise not have the chance to gain hands-on experience in art biennials, which are growing in popularity worldwide.

Besides the talks, a biennale internship programme will also be held next month.

M+ received 700 applications competing for three technical and eight exhibition intern positions.

"There are few on-the-job training opportunities and little education [specifically for curators]," said Yung Ma, the Hong Kong pavilion curator and an assistant curator at M+.

"It's very hard to be a curator in Hong Kong, because there are so few places where you can build your experience."

Ma said the series was a structured talk on the Venice Biennale and that he hoped it would mark the beginning of more educational programmes for young, aspiring curators.

The sessions would look into the history of the Venice Biennale, which was established in 1895, the phenomenon of biennials and sharing sessions on Hong Kong's past participation in one of the world's most prestigious art events.

The M+ team would also share their experiences upon their return from the Italian city.

Ma, who has been a curator for eight years, worked on the Hong Kong pavilion four years ago when he was with the gallery and art space Para/Site.

Then, he presented the works of local artist Pak Sheung-chuen. Ma witnessed the drastic development of Hong Kong's arts scene in the recent years, in which it garnered more international exposure amid the growth of the West Kowloon Cultural District and the thriving art market. But the city remained a tough place for curators, Ma said.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which runs 14 museums and four cultural centres, is the biggest employer of the city's curators.

But they work under a civil servant system, which is vastly different from working in the arts field and under other non-governmental cultural institutions.

He said he hoped that the public would gradually gain a better understanding of the function of curators and their role in the cultural ecology.

Ma said that while more cultural management programmes had been made available at local institutions, few offered comprehensive curatorial training, which should comprise not just academic training but also hands-on experience.

"Younger students have few opportunities to learn about these things," he said. "We hope this is only the first step."

The first talk, "What do we talk about when we talk about pavilions: A history of the Venice Biennale", by curator and art historian Federica Martini, will be held at the Space Museum lecture hall on May 3.