For David Hurlston curating is both a conceptual and physical process: he’s concerned with how viewers move through gallery spaces and how they read artworks. “It’s just about making a really tangible and interesting and educative experience, and I think that happens in the real world, in the real space,” he says.
Having been a curator at the National Gallery of Victoria for over 25 years, David Hurlston’s name is synonymous with the curatorial field of Australian art. While his current role is Senior Curator, Australian Painting, Sculpture and Decorative Arts to 1980, he has worked in a number of curatorial roles at the National Gallery of Victoria including Curator, Australian art exhibitions (2002-2007), Program Coordinator (1999-2002) and Access Gallery Curator (1993-1999).
Hurlston discusses curating as a process centred on collaboration, working with artists, listening and negotiation: elements which have come into play when curating survey shows on well-known artists including Ron Mueck, David Hockney, Deborah Halpern, Ian Strange and more.
Yet having worked for a major public institution for over two decades, Hurlston is not immune to the mandate to consistently compel viewers. “There is the entertainment side of things, it has to look good. The audience expects more now,” he says. The task is to meet this demand while conjuring meaningful art experiences: “We [curators] are custodians of a collection, but also there has to be scholarship behind what we do. I think that’s really important.”
Throughout the conversation Hurlston talks about his childhood experience of regularly visiting NGV, his background as an artist, what curating has meant to him over the years, and what the label of ‘curator of Australian art’ signifies today.
Podcast produced by Tiarney Miekus. Engineered by Mino Peric. Music by Jesse Warren.