suyama space

Chris Antemann. image via:


It was less a panel discussion and more of a three-legged stool of a Q & A on Sunday at the Portland Art Museum when Bonnie Laing-Malcomsen, the Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art, posed questions about the shows that recognize regional art to Rock Hushka, chief curator at the Tacoma Art Museum, and Beth Sellars, curator of Suyama Space in Seattle.

Bruce Guenther,┬áchief curator and curator of modern and contemporary art at the Portland Art Museum, was a no-show, which was a real miss because Guenther could have provided the institutional history for PAM that we didn’t have otherwise. After all, this was a program held on the occasion of the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards (CNAA), currently hanging in the museum. Guenther oversaw the Oregon Biennials that predated the more focused CNAAs at the museum. Apparently, he was on a plane to Japan on a trip related to a show that’s coming to the museum.

It was a delight to have Beth Sellars on the micro-panel because her work as curator at Suyama Space is stunning. She has a wide range of experience serving on juries for regional exhibitions and so has a broad and considered perspective. And Rock Huschka’s clear ideas about the purpose of surveys and award shows was an important part of the conversation.

Sellars felt that both focused award shows and broader surveys were valuable for different reasons. The small show gives the viewer context for what the artist is doing while the inclusive shows have enormous benefits for artists, especially getting their work in front of curators, dealers, and collectors. The jurying (or curating) process itself does that, but both Sellars and Hushka pointed to the value for the artist’s career of the publication, the show catalog that is circulated more widely among arts professionals who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to see work by the included artists.

When asked, Hushka said he prefered a more honed show, giving him the chance “to make a refined statement, a judgment.” Several times he used the word connoisseurship when talking about the intent of a biennial or awards show.


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