Firstenberg Talks LA Art
by Lauri Firstenberg
LAXART's Lauri Firstenberg talks to the Hammer Museum's new senior curator, Anne Ellegood.
LAURI FIRSTENBERG: What is your take on the cultural climate in LA and how do you hope to contribute to it?
ANNE ELLEGOOD: LA is a supportive and provocative environment for artists, which means that artists come to LA—often to study at one of the many highly regarded art schools—and remain in the city. LA also has fantastic museums that have historically always been innovative—as well as scholarly— in their approaches to exhibitions and collections. And there is a growing and thriving gallery system and some of the world’s most dedicated collectors here. Having a genuine community of artists, curators, dealers, art historians and collectors makes LA an exciting city to be in for the field of contemporary art. I think it’s important for institutions today to be deliberately international in their presentation and support of contemporary art. The Hammer is clearly already doing this, and I hope to contribute further to the international scope of the program.
LF: Who were some of the first artists whose studios you visited when you moved to LA in May?
AE: I wanted to connect with artists I already knew and catch up on what they were doing, but I also was eager to meet new artists. I can give you two names from different generations: Mary Kelly, whom I had never met and whom I hugely admire, as she is one of the most influential and important American artists working today, and Jennifer West, whose gorgeous abstract experimental films—made without a camera—I first saw in Israel last fall.
LF: How would you characterize your curatorial approach?
AE: I like to work very closely with artists in what I consider to be a collaborative process. Certainly for a one-person project or the development of new work, I like to have a great deal of dialogue with the artists I am working with. I also try to approach curatorial practice with a sense of self-consciousness about the process and the methodology. I try to always ask myself why I am organizing a show and why I am making specific choices.
LF: Does working in the context of LA shift one’s point of view?
AE: I certainly believe it will and hope it does. LA is a unique place that offers such diversity and creative energy. The pleasure of always getting to grow with new challenges is one of the real privileges of being a curator and working with artists. Over the past few years I have grown increasingly interested in Latin American art and artists, and I have had the opportunity to travel to Mexico, Chile, Brazil and Argentina. Being in LA and in such close proximity to Mexico and all of Central and South America, I certainly hope to focus some attention in that direction.
photograph by Beth Coller