Victoria Noorthoorn – Curatorial Management with Professional Training

No. 148 – September 2007

Victoria Noorthoorn has a wide experience in curating, and received a very solid education at the University of Buenos Aires and at Bard College, New York. She has worked in prestigious institutions such as MoMA (New York) and Malba (Buenos Aires Museum of Latin American Art). Today, she shares with us exclusive information about the exhibition she is organizing for the America’s Society.

Arte al Día: Could you describe the project you are working on at the moment?

Victoria Noorthoorn: I am the curator of the exhibition “Beginning with a Bang! From Confrontation to Intimacy”, at the Americas Society in New York which opens on September 28. The exhibition has two sections. Firstly, there are projects by contemporary Argentine artists working today on what I call “intimacy strategies”, which is Action Art that creates links between people, and that involves the creation of their own spaces where they can develop their own utopias (an exhibition space, a publishing house, a biennial, etc.). And, on the other hand, the exhibition marks how these practices have a critical genealogy that goes back at least to the 1960s. To this end, the exhibition includes a document section, where I point out how, in its time, this artistic gesture was opposed to the art system through strategies of destruction, dematerialization and humor. In this section we present documentation of many artists, and specifically gestures by Greco, Minujín, Jacoby, Masotta, the art of the media, and Federico Manuel Peralta Ramos, among others. I want to point out that in Argentina the strong projects of our young artists do not emerge as if by magic after the crisis, but there is a solid art history that artists use as a reference. The artists participating in the exhibition are all Argentinean. The more up and coming are Eduardo Navarro and Leandro Tartaglia, but most of them are middle generation artists: Fabio Kacero, Graciela Hasper, Fernanda Laguna, Marina De Caro, Ana Gallardo, Patricio Larrambebere and Judi Werthein. Roberto Jacoby’s latest project, La Castidad (Chastity), in collaboration with Syd Krochmalny, is also included. 

AAD: Tell us about your experience at the Pontevedra Biennial 

VN: It was a very specific assignment because I had to work with artists from the Southern Cone (Argentina – Chile – Uruguay) on the topic of emigration and it also included artists from Galicia. It was a great challenge given the magnitude and the long distance work, and also from its beginning: then I tried to expand the topic so that it would not only refer to the Galician emigration but also extend to a very contemporary phenomenon which is the movement of people in the world and how this movement always generates a dislocation, the need to negotiate with the new context.  That is why the title of the Biennial was “Off /Fora: Imaginary movements between Galicia and the Southern Cone”.

AAD: What was your curatorial training at Bard College in New York like? 

VN: The program gave me many tools to approach art. I arrived there with a solid education from the University of Buenos Aires, but was very conventional in its approach. This program allowed me to analyze contemporary art in a more creative way regarding the proposals and encouraged me to propose thesis that later could be refuted by others. The best thing that can happen to a curator is to find and meet others who discuss the ideas exposed through the projects.  

AAD: How would you define the role of a curator?

VN: A good curator is a good mediator between the artist and the public. A responsible curatorship tries to respect the projects, the intentions and the artistic result (the artworks), but it must also clearly explain contents that are usually complex to an audience that does not necessarily have to know what one is presenting. And to do so in a respectful way as well.

AAD: Do you think it is necessary in a curator’s education to be an art historian and have an academic background? 

VN: Yes, I think that academic knowledge is important, although I must confess that I have reservations about certain confusions that arise when certain hardened academics consider themselves curators, since curatorship is a practice that is not only articulated from books, but is developed in dialogue in artists’ studios, and then articulated in the very space of the exhibition. There is a discourse that is spatial, which the curator must be able to manage. I think it can also come from another discipline. But a good curator must handle fundamental knowledge of art history.

AAD: Do you think an artist can be a good curator? 

VN: Yes, I have seen excellent exhibitions curated by artists. 

AAD: How was your curatorial experience at the Ricardo Garabito show? 

VN: It was a co-curatorship with Samuel Paz. The experience was extraordinary because Garabito was my painting teacher while I was studying art history at the UBA. I was his student for 7 years. He was the person who taught me how to see. Working with Garabito in his retrospective was paramount for me.

AAD: You rescued an artist who was unknown to many people.

VN: Garabito has chosen to have a less exposed life. He is a completely genuine artist who always decided to prioritize his art and not so much making himself known. He has had few exhibitions, but they have been extremely solid. I think it’s a great lesson for young people about the importance of taking time to show in the moments when one feels firm. The person who called me was Teresa Grüneisen, first to work on the book whose essay was being written by Marcelo Pacheco; and then I was asked to produce the exhibition. In the book I did the documentation section, the curriculum vitae survey, including the bibliography, and an interview. 

AAD: Could you tell us about your experience working at Malba? 

VN: Very enriching because of the possibility of building an institution that was just beginning. 

AAD: How do you perceive the current art scene? 

VN: I think that Argentine art has excellent artists, but that younger artists can sometimes be a bit confused. They seem to forget the reason why they entered the art world. Seduced by the market, they fall into the dangers of repetition and frivolity. For that reason, I think it is important to take the Argentine artists of previous generations as an example. The market cannot be considered an objective.


Victoria Noorthoorn (Buenos Aires, 1971) has a degree in Art History (University of Buenos Aires) and is an independent curator. Master of Arts in Curatorial Studies from Bard College, New York. She was Project Coordinator of the International Program, MoMA, NY (1998-2000), Curator of Contemporary Exhibitions at The Drawing Center, NY (1999-2001), Malba, Buenos Aires (2002-2003), 29th Pontevedra Art Biennial (2006), co-curator, together with Samuel Paz, of “Ricardo Garabito: A Retrospective”, at the National Museum of Fine Arts, Buenos Aires (2007). Her next exhibition “Beginning with a Bang! From Confrontation to Intimacy”, will be presented at the Americas Society in New York in September 2007.