Interview with Christie’s Curates: Past Perfect Future Present

Milo Dickinson and Tancredi Massimo di Roccasecca, two of four curators of a new exhibition Christie’s Curates: Past Perfect Future Present, talk to the Gentleman’s Journal about the highlights of the exhibition.

Tell us about Christie’s Curates: Past Perfect Future Present
TM: The aim of the exhibition is to juxtapose great art that we have access to at Christie’s from across all ages and from different parts of the globe, together with cutting-edge and new media works by four emerging artists. We have effectively been on a very high-end shopping trip from department to department at Christie’s choosing our favourite objects to go into the exhibition!
MD: You never see this mix of art from across such different spectrums, including art being created right up to the present day, all in one space. We aim to show that beautiful objects from any age can sit alongside and complement each other, and that old and new can look both modern and engaging placed together in a contemporary interior.
TM: It is important to add that the exhibition is free to enter and we are installing a large bar serving free coffee, and drinks on Monday evening, to all visitors. So if you have some time free at the weekend or after work on Monday pop in to come and see us and the exhibition.

What are your favourite objects in the exhibition?
MD: It is a tricky choice but I think my two favourites have to the Bernardo Bellotto oil on canvas of Dresden from the Right Bank of the Elbe painted in the mid-18th century for the auditor-general of Saxony, and which will be sold at Christie’s in July with an estimate of £8-12 million, and an incredible carved agate ewer and basin, dating from the late 17th century, that we think was made for Louis XIV’s son the Grand Dauphin, and was owned by the 10th Duke of Hamilton.
TM: At the other end of the scale we have a fully working Spitfire, that was flown by Peter Cazenove of Great Escape fame, in the battle of Dunkirk and shot down on Calais Beach in May 1940. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get the whole plane inside the building, although we did try, but we have the huge propeller and the extraordinary Merlin engine, which is a work of art in itself. We also have a great assembly of modern masterpieces, such as Henry Moore’s Mother and Child, Andy Warhol’s diptych Are You Different?, a Female Nude by Egon Schiele and two of Sir Claude Francis Barry’s iconic London wartime searchlight paintings.

What’s the key to creating a memorable curated show?
TM: I would say impact. Choose an idea and go with it. I think a curator’s worst mistake would be to ask too many people for their opinion. Everyone’s taste is different, which is what makes us human. To have too many opinions allows for the seed of doubt to take root and could influence one to stray into too many different directions.
MD: Our aim is to make Christie’s look and feel totally different. Christie’s has a great reputation for quality and extremely high levels of client service, but it can be intimidating for the uninitiated. We are giving it a temporary transformation – we are planning on hanging objects off scaffolding, constructing illusions with mirrors, and creating a large scale match up of old and new using the game of chess.
TM: Exactly. We have been very fortunate that we have been curating the show with two other wonderful specialists at Christie’s, Bianca Chu and Alina Brezhneva. Bianca and Alina have great instincts and an understanding of what a young, modern visitor would like to see.
MD: Through Bianca and Alina’s contacts with emerging artists, we have been able to work with Armand Boua, James Balmforth, Olga Chernysheva and Harry Sanderson who are including a painting, sculpture, photograph and new media instillation, respectively, that they have recently made, and which will create a dialogue between old and new, with works ranging from an ancient Roman marble torso to Cubist masterpiece by Fernand Léger.

What’s the best exhibition you’ve seen in the last few months?
TM: I didn’t expect to be but I was blown away by the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the V&A. I also contracted a severe case of exhibition-envy.
MD: Eric Ravilious at Dulwich. If you liked David Hockney’s exhibition at the RA a few years ago, you will love this. Like Hockney, Ravilious had a great attachment to the English countryside, and this manifests itself in some wonderful images, which have been more carefully crafted than Hockney’s large and bright depictions of the Yorkshire Wolds. Dulwich Picture Gallery is also a real gem, worth a visit on its own.
Christie’s Curates: Past Perfect Future Present is open from Friday 12 June until Tuesday 16 June, with a special late night opening on Monday 15 June. The exhibition is free entry and is on at Christie’s 8 King Street, St James’s, London, SW1Y 6QT.

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