Curating Lost is Found

Alastair Howard, one of our team of young Creative Stars, describes how the group worked together to curate the exhibition Lost is Found following visits to artists’ studios in Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield.

Lost is Found, a title that to me not only provides a suitably ambiguous introduction to this exhibition, but also a succinct description of the curation process as well. As first-time curators, we were perhaps somewhat naively relaxed when the process began… Three months on and I’m still discovering new insights into this exhibition.

It’s fair to say we were lost at first, with neither a theme nor artist as a basis to our research, the studio visits were often daunting. While our first visit to the modestly sized Suite Studio Group provided a laid-back atmosphere of discussion and digestive biscuits, it did not prepare us for the 3-floor, 96-artist marathon that was Rogue Studios. As with S1 Studio in Sheffield, here very few of the artists were present, which in many ways was a relief, as personal interpretation, preference and instinct proved to be a quick and effective basis for the selection process. The same applied to Liverpool’s Royal Standard, which we researched online before visiting, and where we, quite miraculously, agreed on three artists that we all felt strongly about in under an hour.

Back at Cornerhouse, a more rigorous and somewhat democratic process helped us produce a shortlist. Votes were cast, shoulders were shrugged and sighs were heard as some artists turned out to be popular with all of us while others divided opinion. But as recurring themes and concepts in the work needed to be considered, each of us had to make personal sacrifices (as they can only be described, some of us becoming quite attached to a particular artist’s work) and choose pieces that would work well together.

The advantages of having multiple curators working on one exhibition became clearer towards the end of the curation process. Discerning the ‘themes’ of a set of artworks without the artists’ input seems a dubious task, especially with work like that in Lost is Found which encourages subjective responses. Our individual viewpoints eventually came together and, I believe, we found a range of artworks to produce an exhibition both diverse and challenging. It has certainly challenged me.

Lost is Found is showing in Gallery 1 from Sat 14 January – Sun 19 February.