by Kitty Scott
Kitty Scott is curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Previously
she was Director of Visual Arts at The Banff Centre, Chief Curator of the Serpentine Gallery,
London, and Curator, Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Scott has curated exhibitions of artists such as Francis Alÿs, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Paul Chan, Peter Doig, Ragnar Kjartansson, Silke Otto-Knapp, Ken Lum, and Ron Terada, and was an agent for dOCUMENTA (13) (2012), Kassel. Here Scott reflects on her recent sources of inspiration, both local and otherwise. Fittingly, she begins with “Artists”
I have been living in Toronto for over two years now, but the city continues to feel new each day. My work gives me a focus: I am constantly amazed by the intensity of activity around contemporary art and by the ways that our artists have forged connections to international networks. The art world ecology here fascinates me and makes my life – and I hope that of many others – rewarding.
Coming to Toronto has provided me with a chance to renew my love of
architecture. It was part of my formation and is still important to me. I think about space all the time. I love Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s TD Centre and the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant that overlooks the lake. I vividly remember seeing Nancy Spero’s huge mural and installation – her first – there in 1988. Last year I went to an event at the Hearn Generating Station – what amazing potential this site has! I wrote my MA thesis on the transformation of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s Bankside Power Station into Tate Modern and worked on an exhibition for London’s Battersea Power Station, so the possibilities of such gigantic industrial structures for museums or exhibition spaces is often in my thoughts.
It’s the people that make life here in Toronto so rich. Last fall I attended one of the most wonderful small dinners. The guests might be described as a secret society of women who are devoted to remembering the pioneering life of Joyce Wieland. For me, the gathering opened up a window to thinking more about the life of this multidisciplinary artist and her city. Adelina Vlas, my new colleague in contemporary art at the AGO, reminded me shortly after her arrival at the museum that we have great drawings by Wieland in the collection. In many ways it’s hard to believe that almost 17, years have gone by since her passing. It still seems so recent, but as it drifts further away in time, the question for me is how Toronto will remember a unique artist like Joyce Wieland.
Mandolin and Shaving Mug
I’ve also been exploring Ontario. I recently went to Owen Sound’s Tom Thomson Art Gallery for research purposes. They have a great, if somewhat homely, display of all things to do with the painter. Most unexpected was Thomson’s mandolin – I had no idea he played. We know the paintings, but I guess we will never know the music or the songs. Equally important, and just next door, out of viewers’ reach in another Plexiglas case, you will find his handsome grey shaving mug.
Dogs, too, are o“en on my mind. If you know me, you know I love dogs. Over the holidays I learned that Jean-Luc Godard loves them, too. Roxy Miéville, his dog, “acts” her way through his disorderly new film, Goodbye to Language. At one point the narrator intones that the dog is the one animal that loves you more than it loves itself. I can only concur.
Finally, I suppose it is old news by now, but I am taken by Theaster Gates’s response to winning the Artes Mundi 6 Prize in 2015, splitting the prize money amongst the shortlisted artists. The gesture “gives” in so many ways and perhaps speaks mostly loudly in a world where competition among artists can be so overwhelming. It’s nice to kick off 2015 with a gesture of such generosity.