A work by Canadian-Egyptian artist Anna Boghiguian at Artes Mundi, a £40,000 biennial exhibition and prize

Artes Mundi seeking director and curator

Rob Sharp , Issue 119/04, 01.04.2019
Visual arts organisation advertises for someone with track record in leadership to succeed Karen Mackinnon. Rob Sharp reports
One of the most important visual arts organisations in Wales is looking for a new boss after its director and curator Karen Mackinnon left in February.

Artes Mundi, which runs a £40,000 biennial international exhibition and prize, is advertising for a successor with a “proven track record of successful leadership of an arts organisation” and a commitment to the event’s mission of bringing international artists making challenging work to Wales. This year the prize was won by the Thailand-based artist Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Mackinnon, who will become the director of Swansea’s Glynn Vivian Art Gallery this month, joined Artes Mundi in 2013. She has been a vocal supporter of plans to create a new national contemporary art gallery for Wales, telling the BBC in October: “What form it takes, I’m not sure, but I think we need a contemporary art gallery for Wales to strengthen the ecosystem.”

A feasibility study for the new gallery, published by the Welsh government in November, recommended a devolved structure with a central gallery hub running alongside the development of up to eight existing arts locations. The capital cost of the new gallery is estimated to be up to £180m, so a funding feasibility study has been recommended.

“The de-centred model of a contemporary art gallery is a good one,” says Alfredo Cramerotti, the director of Mostyn, a Llandudno art institution. “It needs to be consolidated, otherwise, if it is too fragmented, it will be too weak to have an impact.

“We can take the Tate model as an example and adapt it; one overall organisation that fundraises, partners and brands itself as a single entity, operating through four different venues and programmes, each with their respective specialisation – international contemporary, British and historical, British or international modernist – and community or diversity in contemporary art practices.

“Something like that, revised and shaped properly, could work in Wales. We don’t need one new building, but we do need one new, overall strategic structure.”

Asked about Artes Mundi, Cramerotti says: “Prizes help raise critical attention to contemporary art practice through the media. But a tricky aspect is to evaluate what impact it has had in Cardiff and the rest of Wales. Can a prize help artists to truly advance their practice?

“Perhaps it should structure itself as a recurrent international art event, rather than a prize. Brand itself as a biennial or triennial, expand its scope and reach in terms of venues and funding, embrace a more curatorially driven and artistic-led event and go for it.”

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