What kind of a year has 2019 been for you?
I’ve been mainly on sabbatical from Bluecoat working as guest curator for Sean Edwards Wales in Venice 2019 which has been a year like no other. In a good way! I also still managed to spend time with Grace Ndiritu when she returned for her solo show at Bluecoat this summer. I think Grace is one of the most significant mid-career UK artists out there. I tend to think about my year in terms of which artists I’ve worked with.
What has changed for the better?
I’m really behind the Turner Prize artists collectively changing the terms of the prize. Out of all of them I know Tai Shani the best but I can imagine that conversation happening and the idea being sincerely shared by all of them. It felt right for this year.
What do you wish had happened this year, but didn’t?
Let’s just say I’m still absorbing the election result.
What would you characterise as your major achievement this year and why?
Working with Wales in Venice 2019 artist Sean Edwards and Louise Hobson (Assistant Curator) has been a highlight. ‘Undo Things Done’, commissioned by the Arts Council of Wales, was very much a collective achievement by the technical team, artist invigilators, lead and partner organisations Ty Pawb and Bluecoat, with National Theatre Wales providing invaluable support to make Refrain, the daily radio play which was performed for seven months by Sean’s mum Lily Edwards. She is my hero of 2019.
Is there anything you’d like to have done this year but haven’t?
Spending time in Venice installing and opening ‘Undo Things Done’ at the Biennale, meeting so many artists and curators from across the world and seeing so much new work means that I’ve had a very fulfilling year. It’s hard to think of anything I’d rather have done instead.
On a personal front I’d like to have been around for family a little more but we did manage to make Wales in Venice 2019 the most friendly install we could with children, other halves and grandparents on site and the team travelling back to see family who couldn’t come out. The objective from the start was to balance art and life as much as possible.
What would make 2020 a better year than 2019?
Artistically I’d love to see more artists enter more UK public collections – Jade Montserrat being at the top of my list. The balance between form, materials, politics and collaboration in her practice is extraordinary.
Politically – to keep hope actively alive.
1. Marie-Anne McQuay. Photo: Rhian Askins
2. Grace Ndiritu, The Ark, Installation View, Bluecoat, 2019. Photo: Rob Battersby; Courtesy: the artist
3. Sean Edwards installation of Undo Things Done 2019. Photo © Jamie Woodley
4. Jade Montserrat, Instituting Care, installation view, Bluecoat 2018-19. Courtesy: the artist