BOOK OF THE MONTH (7): Wiels curator Elena Filipovic contributes to ‘Creamier’: 100 of the most interesting artists emerging today

I know I’m a bit late with proposing a new book of the month, and certainly when it comes to this one. But I kept on reading in it and by doing so postponing to write about it. And then after a while I decided to wait for the right moment to present it. Creamier is a really interesting and great looking (big) book for which ten internationally renowned curators have chosen their favorite ’emerging’ artists. One of the reasons this book has caught my attention is that one of those curators happens to be Elena Filipovic, one of the curators working at Wiels (Brussels). She brought that wonderful Felix Gonzalez-Torres retrospective to Brussels, for instance, and just last week she unveiled an intriguing exhibition at Wiels by Scottish artist Lorna Macintyre (‘Granite and rainbow’, through January 16). Just the right moment to ask Filipovic a few questions about Creamier. You’ll find that interview and more info about this great book (published by Phaidon) after the jump.

‘100 of the most exciting contemporary artists emerging today’. That’s what Creamier confidently says it presents. Ten curators have each selected ten important new artists who have either emerged internationally over the last five years or who are still relatively unknown. Creamier is the newest episode in a series of books: Cream (’98), Fresh Cream (2000), Cream 3 (2003) and Ice Cream (2007). It’s a great, lavishly illustrated book that provides you with all the info you might need on those peachy coloured pages. It comes with an introduction for which the ten curators ‘visualize the future of contemporary art’ during a roundtable discussion. The curators who have contributed to Creamier are working at museums in London, Los Angeles, Hiroshima, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, Banff, New York and… Brussels. Just in case you might be interested: these are the ten artists Elena Filipovic has selected: Duncan Campbell, Chto Delat, Thea Djordjadze, Haris Epaminonda, Aïda Ruilova, Ignacio Lang, Melvin Moti, Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, Danh Vo and Tris Vonna-Michell.

What’s the most difficult part about selecting 10 artists? The fear that you might have overlooked someone? Have you, since the book was published, maybe discovered an artist that should have been on your list?

Elena Filipovic: ‘There’s always a fear of overlooking talented artists that deserve more attention, and it is by necessity a fact that, as a curator, you will leave some out if you only have ten spots at the dinner table. Thus there are plenty that have been missed!’

Two Belgian artists have made the selection (Sven Augustijnen and Harald Thys & Jos De Gruyter). Should we Belgians be proud or disappointed?

‘Well, I hope Belgians would be proud, if anything! And that even if I tend to think less in nationalistic terms myself. Belgium is a relatively small country and to have three artists (or one artist and a collective) included in such an assembly of artists is pretty striking and says much for not only the quality of the Belgian art scene but also the international recognition that it is getting.’

What do you see when you look at that final list of 100 artists? Is there anything in particular that strikes you, that ‘surprises’ you? (themes, trends…)

‘The list of artists (as the list of commissioning curators) is pretty diverse, I think, so it would be hard to draw too many conclusions from it, but when I started to read about the different artists, I admit I was quite excited.’

How come there’s such a rise of performance-based work? All the curators are pointing it out during that introductory  roundtable discussion.

‘It’s pretty evident that there is a surge of that work today. Although I think that in the wake of the 60s and 70s, there are today different types of performance-based work and different reasons for artists to be interested in that form. I’m working through exactly that issue for an upcoming show at Wiels to open at the end of February and called The Other Tradition. I want to feature the work of a young generation, including Tino Sehgal, Cezary Bodzianowski, Katerina Seda, and many others whose work is based on live actions but they do not trace their genealogy to performance art per se. So I think using the word ‘performance’ today has become too broad to speak for all the different practices it entails…’

Ten curators. Isn’t there a real risk that each of them is going to try and outsmart the other nine, when picking his or her ten artists, instead of choosing the ‘right’ ten artists? Let me compare it to my previous job as a rock journalist: even if a commercial popband such as Roxette made a good album, it was ‘not done’ for journalists to admit that.

‘I couldn’t say how much there is of that, but I suspect that each curator’s choices are pretty personal and at moments I think one can feel that… and that’s really the best way to go about it.’

Do artists refuse to be listed? As one curator phrases it, being chosen for Creamier is ‘a sort of displacement from a local road to the superhighway’.

‘Not that I know of. Definitely none of my selection did. I think they rather think of it as an interesting opportunity.’

Could you name one artist that you didn’t know of and that you’ve discovered because another curator selected him or her; and that you are now really intrigued by?

‘I can’t think of an artist in the publication that I had never heard of (this is from memory though, or at least there were definitely not more than a few), but the interesting thing is that because of the vast amount of space given over to images of their work alongside the texts of the selectors, one gets to know even more about their recent preoccupations and practices even if you might already know a bit about them already.’

Each curator was asked to choose one ‘source’ as well for the book: a key creative work that has been significantly influential to art being produced at this moment. Why did you choose Brian O’Doherty’s book Inside the white cube? It was published in ’76. Why is it still relevant today?

‘It’s a book that was, I believe, ahead of its time when it was written or at least there was nothing like it at the time. I find that I still return to it regularly myself as a curator and know artists who covet their dog-eared copies. We forget sometimes that that most prescient critique of the white cube came from an artist.’

You can flip through some of the pages of ‘Creamier’ here and order it (39,95 euro) at the Phaidon store here.


One Response to “BOOK OF THE MONTH (7): Wiels curator Elena Filipovic contributes to ‘Creamier’: 100 of the most interesting artists emerging today”

  1. […] guy. Until I was reading Creamier (10 international curators picking 100 emerging artists, review here) and got to the part for which each of those curators had chosen one key creative work; one that […]

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