Susan Lord, Curator at Bury Art Museum & Sculpture Centre travelled to Eindhoven, Netherlands in September 2017 on a ICOM UK - HWB Travel Grant to visit the Van Abbemuseum. This is the report from her visit.
The purpose of the visit to the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven was to meet and work with the Van AbbeMuseum’s curatorial team to develop two projects. The first project I wanted to discuss with them was a Modernist touring exhibition, which is expected to tour to Taipei, Taiwan in 2020. The exhibition will feature artworks from the museums & galleries that make up the Greater Manchester Museums Group (GMMG) and the Van Abbemuseum. During this visit, I wanted to select works of art with the curators and developing the themes of the exhibition. The second project I wanted to explore with the team was the Radical Museum Festival, which Bury is hosting in May 2018, the festival which will last for 3 weeks will, amongst other things involve a 3-day conference. The Director of the Van Abbemuseum, Charles Esche, will be the keynote speaker. The Van Abbemuseum also wants a curatorial presence in the festival and the logistics of this I wanted to discus and organise during my visit.
By meeting face-to-face with the Van Abbemuseum team it enabled me to engender trust and mutual understanding in order to develop the two projects especially the modernist show. Christiane Berndes spent the whole day with me, which was great. She introduced me to each of the department teams and showed my around the exhibitions and collections stores. We also spent a few hours looking through the collections management database at possible artworks that could be loaned.
I was able to see two exhibitions that the Van Abbemuseum has curated that draw upon their permanent collections, The Making of Modern Art and The Way Beyond Art, as well as an exhibition by the Chinese artist Qiu Zhijie Journeys Without Arrivals. Bury Art Museum is interested in perhaps taking a smaller version of the Qiu Zhijie show in 2019, so it was really helpful to see it in the flesh.
I feel that this trip has built trust between the two organisations. It was invaluable being able to spend so much time with Christiane looking at and talking about the artworks. There is simply no substitute to actually seeing artworks up close. I am now able to bring this information back to Bury Art Museum so that the curatorial team can take the next step in the process of organising the modernist show.
In terms of top tips for other sector professionals, it goes without saying that you should research the organisation you are visiting before hand. Familiarise yourself with the exhibitions and collections via their website.
Christiane and I have already been in email correspondence after the trip, we have put in place certain deadlines that we are both working towards. A curatorial meeting for the Bury Art Museum team is also planned to explore the exhibition further in light of the artworks the Van Abbemuseum has suggested they can loan. A request to loan form will be sent to loan moving image works for the Radical Museum Festival. We will also be contacting the curator of the Qiu Zhijie exhibition to discuss this further.
"The trip has enabled me to meet face to face with the Van Abbemuseum team and engender a sense of trust and mutual understanding between our two organisations. The Van Abbemuseum, I feel, are really pushing boundaries in terms of how they curate their shows; being able to see the exhibitions they have curated and learn about the ideas behind them was inspirational for me." - Susan Lord, Curator, Bury Art Museum & Sculpture Centre
"The curatorial visit to the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven has enabled Bury Art Museum & Sculpture Centre to progress discussions around future partnerships, specifically opportunities around our International Exhibitions Programme. It also created the opportunity for our curator to share best practice in curatorial development and for our organisation to explore new ways of working." - Tony Trehy, Director, Bury Art Museum & Sculpture Centre