Credit for the photo of Coralie Claeysen-Gleyzon is © Lechon Kirb. Credit for the artwork in the background is Nate Young, Untitled (detail), 2016, Graphite on paper, oak and walnut, Collection of Dr. Robert B. Feldman.
Q AND A WITH CORALIE CLAEYSEN-GLEYZON
What led you to be a Curator?
As far as I can remember I’ve had a fascination for art. Growing up in the middle of the desert in Niger until eight years old, I didn’t have access to museums but to a plethora of cultural experiences that were later instrumental in shaping my art career and my outlook on life. All of my memories of that time are imbued with color and the way the Saharan light touched every surface of my environment. I remember looking at a Renoir print of Le Bal du Moulin de La Galettethat was hanging on the wall of my parents’ bedroom for hours, just wondering how the chandeliers just seemed to be magically floating in the air and studying the dappled touches of paint representing the play of light and shadow on the figures’ dresses. African art was also omnipresent in our house, with elaborate wooden carvings in the form of mural bas-reliefs representing village scenes, masks, wooden statues, and Fulani and Tuareg artefacts adorning our home. When I was 9, our family moved back to France and in an art book my mom had bought, I discovered Contemporary Art, and most importantly Christo. The image of his bright orange Valley Curtain rocked my world and a whole bunch of emotions that I had experienced in Africa came rushing back.
In high school I took art classes and also became fascinated by Semiology, studying the content of TV commercials and magazine ads, and spending countless hours building extensive collections of ads (from vintage to contemporary). I guess what I was truly interested in was the power to communicate impactful messages through images and how emotions can be vehiculated through art without the need for translation. I think that’s what most matters to me in my role of curator really, the mission to make that connection happen for others. After high school, I studied communication and new media at university in France, before moving to the UK and shifting my focus for good to visual arts and cultural studies with the Institute for Cultural Research at Lancaster University, Lancaster (UK).
Deep down I’ve always known I would work “in the arts” but I don’t think I knew in what capacity. Along the years I have worked with film and photography festivals, film archives, operas, theatres, art galleries, guerrilla art happenings, performances and interventions, international art fairs, one of the world’s most exclusive private collections, and museums (collecting institutions and exhibition center types). My first official role as a curator was with Urbis, a stunning contemporary urban art center -now sadly defunct- in a futuristic building in Manchester, UK, which boasted 5 floors of temporary exhibition spaces and a rich program focused on contemporary art, street art, fashion and design. I see the role of a curator as much more than working with objects and making art historical research. To me it’s the role of a mediator, the “ultimate connector” between the art, the artist and the audience, that’s what I’m interested in. It’s alive and always evolving. It keeps you on your toes, always learning and adapting.
What is one of your favorite periods or styles in art?
It’s a tough question because there is so much I love! I would say I have a penchant for Contemporary art installations, Conceptual, Body, and Performance art, being fascinated by their often-transient nature, as something that one cannot hold, purchase or keep. I am deeply attached to the notion of art as an experience, a vehicle for emotion and ideas rather than an object and a commodity. That being said, I am as passionate about the incredible objects I get to work with and could spend hours looking at the detail of a hand painted by Toulouse-Lautrec! I have an eclectic taste and Daniel Lind-Ramos’s assemblages, Carlos Martiel’s performances, Marisol and Anish Kapoor sculptures, Shiva Ahmadi, Fahamu Pecou, and Edouard Vuillard’s paintings, Vanessa German’s multimedia works and performances, Latifa Echakhch’s installations, and Arthur Jafa’s photo compositions and videos, are among some of my favorites.
You have a very unique background! What are some ways you think your travels and experiences have influenced your work?
I have lived, studied, worked in 6 countries, and on 4 different continents… When you’ve been a foreigner practically all your life, your perspective is changed forever. I truly believe that most of the struggles we face in our contemporary society would be alleviated, perhaps even non-existent, if people had the chance to be fully immersed in another culture for at least a year. I think these travels and worldwide experiences have given me a genuine love of people and taught me to cultivate a spirit of activism. I also want my work to have an impact on people and reach audiences that may never have had access to art. Approachability and accessibility are very important to me.
What are some of your favorite projects that you have completed at the Orlando Museum
One of my favorite projects every year is to co-curate the Florida Prize in Contemporary Art with our senior curator Hansen Mulford. This is a very exciting exhibition which showcases each year the work of 10 artists who are doing compelling work within the state of Florida. It’s a very rewarding exhibition because I love working with living artists and emerging artists, supporting them via my curatorial practice, by including them in exhibitions or recommending their work for acquisition to our permanent collection.
Another project I recently completed was an exhibition of In Exaltation of Flowers, a stunning 7-panel mural by Edward Steichen that had been kept in storage for more than a hundred years. Funded by Art Bridges and in collaboration with the Mennello Museum of American Art (who were exhibiting the artist’s photographs), the dual exhibition and accompanying program of events were a wonderful occasion to partner with peer institutions and work with colleagues I admire greatly.
Probably my most memorable experience to date at the OMA was to assist Nick Cave with his FEAT. exhibition last year. Recently dubbed by the New York Times as “the most joyful, critical artist in America”, Nick Cave’s work about racial justice is both harrowing and extremely generous. He and his partner Bob Faust are two of the kindest souls I have ever met and it was such an honor to see their creativity in action and share Nick’s beautiful work with the public. This led to many collaborations with underserved groups with whom we are now fostering relations.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I have an adventurous spirit and a yearning to explore new places, so in this often-crazy world (especially lately!), I find solace in the practice of Shinrin Yoku (Japanese for “forest bathing”), taking long nature walks and going primitive camping with my kids. I also enjoy reading worldwide literature, especially the classics, and watching experimental or art-house films. I often feel there’s not enough hours in the day to do everything I would like to accomplish!
If you could give one piece of advice to an emerging artist, what it would be?
Stop making “art”! As shocking as it sounds, it's true! When your focus is to purposefully “making art”, the work often feels contrived. Really what they should focus on is to make simple everyday work that reflects who they truly are, and NEVER stop learning, experiment, read, watch art films, outside their comfort zone … inspiration is everywhere! Stay curious! What inspires you reflects your authentic self.
The Art and Culture Center/Hollywood is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization supported in part by its members, admissions, private entities, the City of Hollywood; the Broward County Board of County Commissioners as recommended by the Broward Cultural Council; the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture; the David and Francie Horvitz Family Foundation; and the Josephine S. Leiser Foundation. We welcome donations from all members of the community who wish to support our work.