Interview with Vincent Honoré by Lorena Muñoz-Alonso. Part 2:
Lorena Muñoz-Alonso: I know that before becoming the Director and Curator of the David Roberts Art Foundation (DRAF) you had been assistant curator at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and at Tate Modern. But I am curious to know how it all began, what did you study, why did you move London…
Vincent Honoré: To be honest, I don’t believe in curatorial studies as such. I think you can learn management, how to deal with a budget, copyright and practical things like that. And you should, because that’s definitely going to be part of your work as a curator. But learning “curating” seems like an impossibility to me. You can learn theories and histories at best. I studied Comparative Literature at the Sorbonne in Paris: my thesis in on Georges Bataille and Fiodor Dostoievski. After I graduated I taught for a short while but I didn’t really like the system, so I quit and took a year off to do various internships in theatre, editorial and, most decisively, in a contemporary art gallery. While being there, I realised that curating would the best discipline to gather all my interests together: art, literature, film and history.
L M-A What happened then?
VH. Well, I had discovered what I wanted to do but at the same time I realised I didn’t have any knowledge in arts management, so I took a course in that. After, I did an internship at the Jeu de Paume and then I was lucky enough to land another one at the Palais de Tokyo in 2001 working with Nicolas Bourriaud, preparing everything for its opening, after which they asked me to stay as an assistant curator. In 2004 I got a curatorial post at Tate Modern, where I stayed until 2007, working in exhibitions with Carsten Höller, Pierre Huyghe, Jeff Wall or group shows like ‘Learn To Read’. In 2007 I was appointed curator-in-residence at 176 and right after I became Director and Curator of DRAF.
L M-A. You moved back to Paris a while ago but you work in London. How does that work, practically?
VH. My time in Paris is devoted to research and then I travel to London twice a month, staying over for a week or more, implementing that research. Having a “flying director” as Per Hutner calls me, participates to the ethos of the foundation.
L M-A. I guess that one of this risks one runs into when living in London is becoming too “London-centric”, looking at a certain group of artists or modes of display that are hot in the scene at a certain moment. I know the scene in Paris is quite different and has its own specificities, so I suppose that moving back and forth might bring a bit of fresh air…
VH. I agree, although this is quite a debate. I discussed it with Paul Pieroni: how do you position yourself within your territory. One of the risks I face at the moment is being considered not “London” enough. But I think that’s a problem that’s going to be solved with the new space as I want to develop new programmes and open even more the foundation. We want to make sure that our first point of entry is London, even if our endeavour is international.
L M-A. How did you find the art scene in Paris when you came back?
VH. I think Paris has always had a very exciting art scene. Also in the 90s Paris witnessed the first big exhibitions of artists like Pierre Hyughe, Olafur Eliasson, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Anri Sala thanks to Susanne Pagé and HUO in particular… There’s a different energy since the Palais de Tokyo and Le Plateau opened in 2002, with new spaces and younger galleries opening. Paris is now more diverse in terms of exhibitions and projects. A new generation emerged, from Benoit Maire to Neil Beloufa. Foreign artists came to establish themselves in Paris: Oscar Tuazon, Ulla van Brandenbourg, Katinka Bock or Jessica Warboys to name a few. Several very interesting public spaces are very active in the outskirts, like the Crédac, en Ivry-Sur-Seine, La Galerie at Noisy-le-Sec or the CAC Brétigny.
L M-A. What would you say your main interest as a curator is?
VH. I suppose I am very interested in the “curatorial”, in the structures that inform the curatorial. My exhibitions are often performative as they tend to change throughout the duration of the show, but they are also un-conclusive. They are often inscribed in a programme, or tend to address the notion of programme instead of being isolated presentation. I also work and research a lot “structures of thoughts” in a way that I address how works are positioned, produced, how they circulate. I consider exhibitions as open systems and I think that is something that can definitely be read in my work. Overall, I like proposing introductions, rather than conclusions. I like things that are unresolved.
L M-A. But in the last couple of years you have worked as an independent curator practice, mostly in France, as well as keeping a very active writing practice…
VH. Yes, while I am deeply interested in the curatorial –meaning all these relationships and structures that produce shows within the Foundation– I am now also curating as an independent curator, which I am really enjoying. I am curating in France as an independent agent, which I had never done before, like the group show Tableaux at Magasin Cnac, or the solo exhibitions of Benoît Maire and Simon Starling at Kunsthalle Mullhouse. And, yes, as you mentioned, I also write for the magazines Mousse and Cura, as well as editing the ‘Drawing Room Confessions’ series.
L M-A. What are your main goals for the new DRAF that’s opening in September?
VH. When I came to London first in 2004 I thought the city was very dynamic in terms of artists, but right now I think that the energy from the city might be coming just as much from the writers and curators and thinkers working here, as well as from the new structures that have formed since. I am thinking of ventures like ‘this is tomorrow’, AutoItalia, SelfSelector, Raven Row, or individuals like Fatos Ustek, Alex Ross, Paul Pieroni or Gil Leung amongst many others. I would like to think that what DRAF started in 2008, by inviting curators like Raimundas Malasauskas, Mihnea Mircan, Chris Sarp and Simone Menegoi, Mathieu Copeland and so on, contribute to the very dynamic art scene that London enjoys at the moment. And I would love the new DRAF to be the catalyst of the many exciting, thought-provoking and rigorous things that are yet to come.
A House of Leaves. First Movement runs 21 Sep — 15 Nov 2012
David Roberts Art Foundation
London NW1 7JE