An Interview with Kitty Scott, Curator of Art Toronto’s Focus Exhibition
What was your approach to curating the Focus exhibition at Art Toronto 2023?
I started by thinking about Duane Linklater’s I want to forget the english language (ulterior) 2020/2023. It is one of the first works you see as you enter the Focus space. Its ancestral and contemporary vocabulary speaks to the many contradictions of contemporary life. A series of domestic and industrial objects—tipi poles, a Tupperware container, a stone, a box and a museum dolly are stacked one on top of the other. They coalesce into a nomadic-looking form that points to different ways of living, making and caring. The dolly and the container, for example, are the tools used to carefully move fragile things. A chandelier dangles from the high side of the five diagonally arranged tipi poles. While the title of this work clearly builds resistance into the language of the sculpture, the weight of the chandelier appears almost negligible. Inexplicably, the sculpture wants to propel itself forward.
The tipi poles, at one end, touch the floor and this brings to the fore deep connections to the land and to ancestral activities such as hunting and fishing, along with Indigenous economies. It seems to ask “How are we to live today?” Much of my thinking expanded outward from how this work is constructed and the ideas it opens up.
Can you talk a bit about the title of the exhibition?
The title for this exhibition is Good Foot Forward. The foot is the part of the body that makes the most contact with ground or land. Many of the works in the exhibition pull the viewer’s attention downwards. As diverse people living here, we often find ourselves talking about the land, issues of sovereignty, ancestral knowledge, the political economy of real estate, the undersides of domesticity and more simply put, how we are living together. In the very best instances, these conversations are progressive and optimistic.
There are quite a few large-scale installations in the exhibition. What was your interest in including these kinds of works in an art fair setting?
First and foremost, this exhibition and Fair provide art lovers with a place to look at art. It offers great exposure for artists and gallerists. Art Toronto is a special convenor of this country’s contemporary art professionals, collectors, patrons and audience. The opportunity to see a wide array of art and one another all in the same place is rare in a country as big as ours. These moments are invaluable as they are few and far between.
Most of my career, I have been focused on bringing ambitious artworks into museum collections. At the AGO and the NGC, I worked collaboratively with staff and acquisition committees to make these things happen. Perhaps Louise Bourgeois’s Maman (1999-2002) – an acquisition I made for the National Gallery of Canada – and the club room from Theaster Gates’s “How to Build a House Museum” (2016) are strong examples of this kind of thinking. Having worked in these types of institutions, it’s part of my DNA. Large-scale art belongs here at Art Toronto too. It is a place where many more people can experience these works and hopefully some of them will land in their forever home.
Connie Butler, former Chief Curator of the Hammer Museum and newly appointed Director of MoMA PS1, will be participating in a Curators in Conversation talk with you as part of Art Toronto’s Platform series. What led you to choose Butler for this talk?
Connie Butler has always possessed a great openness to new and underappreciated artistic voices – she has been a highly influential leader in this respect. It will be exciting to see her in Toronto. I am curious to learn how she is approaching this new role at MoMA PS1 and what she is thinking about in this time. She has done so much great work in major institutions and has been at the forefront of curatorial thinking for a generation. With WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (2008) she brought pioneering feminist voices into the institution. More recently she has overseen Selections from the Hammer Contemporary Collection (2023), a presentation of the collection, for the Hammer Museum’s reopening.