CURATOR'S VOICE: SARAH HASTED
by Jillian Steinhauer
ARTINFO asked some industry insiders — photography curators and dealers from around New York — to share their thoughts about the Brooklyn Museum's "crowd-curated" show “Click!” Below is the interview with Sarah Hasted, photography dealer and co-founder of Hasted Hunt Gallery. To see the other interviews, click on the links to the left.
JS: Sarah, how do you feel about the idea of “crowd-curating”?
SH: Anything that gets the general public involved in the arts is great. It’s not the first time I’ve heard about an idea like this, although it’s the first time I’ve heard that a museum has done something like it. I do think it has an American Idol aspect to it, which some people may love. I’m not sure the artists involved necessarily like it.
JS: The concept for the show is obviously very medium-specific; photography tends to be viewed in popular culture as an art form that everyone can do. Do you think an exhibition like this, where a major art museum is showing amateur work chosen by random people, helps or hurts the medium?
SH: I would say it does a little of both. What’s good about it is that it brings attention to photography. What’s maybe negative is that it encourages the stereotype that photography is easy. We often get portfolio submissions from people calling themselves artists, and although in their world they may be artists, and in the general world they may be artists, in my world I would say their photography is a hobby as opposed to a profession. We try to draw a distinction.
JS: I think this show blurs that distinction.
SH: Yes, a submission might be this person’s one good photo, and one photo does not an artist make. But as long as the museum is saying, “Hey, this is the general public,” it’s fine. I think it’s when something is being touted as the new wave or the new trend or the end-all in a medium that you start to question, “How did this get here? Where did I go wrong?”
JS: The Brooklyn Museum underwent a controversial reorganization of its curatorial department a few years ago, in which curators were assigned to one of two departments: exhibitions and collections. Do you think this exhibition relates to the museum’s new curatorial philosophy?
SH: That’s a hard one for me to speak to, because it’s not my profession; being a curator in a gallery is quite different from being a curator in a museum, where you’re building a collection. It is an interesting philosophy, because usually the curator builds the collection, and those collections are exhibited, but with a museum like the Brooklyn Museum, it may be different because they really want to draw the general public. How do you get the draw in Brooklyn? “Click!” is quite genius in a way, because so many artists entered photos and so many people participated in the jurying, and all of those people are going to see the show. It has a different appeal than a one-artist show or a group show with three or four artists.
I do think it’s quite unusual that a museum is doing a show that involves the general public so openly. I think it’s a great idea, but I don’t think all museums will agree. I can see the Met looking at them and going, “Well, that’s Brooklyn.”