Robert, Thank you for taking the time to do an interview with Entanglement.
Some have called him a Renaissance man because over the past 24 years he has developed a broad range of activities. He does art tours, assist artists and are a consultant for art fairs and organizing exhibitions. He curates, write essays, oversee public relations activities, and can be an adviser on starting galleries, coordinate event management, research and locate pieces for collectors and commissions.
CB: Given these abilities, it is interesting that you started first as an artist graduating from Tyler School of Art, how did you gravitate from being an artist to doing this kind of work?
RC: At Tyler I started working in the school’s gallery as a general assistant which got me interested in how the art business works. From there I just kept moving up the ladder in galleries, then I became a director of a non-profit. As I was doing more with the business side, I was doing less and less with my own art.
At one point I was exhibiting fairly regularly while still running the non-profit and trying to find time every night to make work. It just became all mixed together, very hectic, and I wasn’t really accomplishing anything. Everything was suffering, so I decided I needed to focus on either making art or the business of art. It took about a week to decide and since then I haven’t regretted my decision.
CB: Did you have a particular focus in sight when you began?
RC: In the very beginning I was focusing on the non-profit – organizing exhibits, promoting the space to a new audience, build alliances, etc. Once I left there, that’s when I began branching out with managing artists, opening a gallery, curating, writing, working on benefits, promotion, and it kept growing from there.
CB: What activities do you like the most and why?
RC: I truly love doing everything connected with an exhibit – selecting the artists and pieces, creating an interesting installation, writing the release, organizing events, making sales, talking about it to people. Amazingly, I even enjoy sweeping the floor. For me organizing an exhibit is creating one big piece of art.
CB: Do some of your projects overlap?
RC: Recently I was talking with a gallery about managing an exhibit of their artists in NYC and they brought up the Asia Contemporary Art Show that I have consulted on. I gave the gallery a pitch about participating in the Asian show which they in turn gave me a pitch to consult on the fair that they own.
CB: How do you juggle such a broad range of activities?
RC: It gets crazy at times, but I prefer working this way rather than always working on one specific thing all day, every day. I might start the day with a studio consultation. The afternoon is spent contacting galleries about an art fair and the evening writing. In between I might get an email or call from an art dealer asking if I know who might want to buy or sell something or a publication asking me to interview an artist or can I help with a benefit or a curator asking if I know artists that are using certain imagery for an exhibit they are organizing.
CB: Why type of art work is most interesting to you and why?
RC: I like a great variety of art, but what I find most interesting and gravitate towards is art work that deals with the human condition; something that starts personal, but then reaches out and brings you in. It could be a figurative painting or time-based performance or installation, but, it has to be more then just an amazing technically painted figure.
CB: Do you also collect?
RC: I do collect, but not much these days. Earlier on I was collecting more. My favorite pieces are my dad’s paintings and pieces that artists gave me because we’ve worked together and/or became friends.
CB: How did you become one of the co-producers of the Scope Art Shows?
RC: After closing my gallery I participated in the Downtown Art Exchange, NYC, which I did very well at. I wanted to participate in more fairs, but back then fairs wanted you to own a gallery before they would even consider you. After being rejected constantly or placed on the waitlist to nowhere, I said “Screw this, why not start an art fair.” Some time later I was talking with Peter Surace and Alexis Hubshman of Rare Gallery, and mentioned starting an art fair. Alexis right away said “Let’s talk.” and a year or so later was the first Scope.
CB: What was your role as consultant for the Asia Contemporary Art Show?
RC: I was promoting the show mainly to North American and European galleries to secure their participation. I have consulted with art fairs on sales, exhibitors, pr, collector/VIP development, museums and other aspects.
CB: Of the 17 exhibitions that you have curated, what did you enjoy most about them?
RC: Most of the time what is most enjoyable is getting to know the artists; not just professionally, but personally.
CB: How does collector consulting process evolve?
RC: It depends upon the type of collector – are they just starting or have they been collecting for years, are they really interested in art or is it all about buying and selling. That’s the first step, figuring out where they are at, where do they want to go and if I can really be of any assistance. Since I have always been very involved with the primary market, I have tended to work with people who want to start or maybe having been buying a few pieces each year. As I have met more serious collectors, now I’m looking at the secondary market.
CB: What is the next exciting project you are planning?
RC: My next project is Eti Naor’s solo exhibit this May at Bosi Contemporary. I will be writing a profile on her and assisting with promotion. I’ve known Eti for a number of years and watched her work just keep getting better, more nuanced with concepts and emotions. When I co-curated HEAD at Bosi we had a couple of Eti’s pieces in the exhibit and the gallery decided to offer her a solo exhibit.
CB: Thank you for your thoughts and your time.
You can read more about Robert Curcio’s projects click here.