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The importance of not being bored


Curators and critics
Anthony Caro Artist
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[Q] How important have curators been in your career? Critics and, more obvious... they write on a bigger platform. In the last two or three decades curators have become more important. But have you had important curator champions that have made a big difference to the way your work has been seen?

Well, yes. I mean I think insofar as people who put on good shows, people who make their selections. Paul Moorhouse doing the Tate Show, people like Michael Fried occasionally. But I mean, it doesn't strike me as terribly important but it... it's important from a... a career point of view that you have good people paying attention to your work and choosing and looking after it, and so on.

[Q] What about your first important show at the Whitechapel in '63?

That was not curated; I just put in my stuff.

[Q] So Bryan Robertson, this legendary director of the Whitechapel, kind of gave your free rein almost?

Pretty well, pretty well. He did come in contact with it; he did grasp it quite well. It surprised me he could... I remember him saying to somebody, who said, ‘I can't, I don't like that sculpture, I can't get it’. He said, ‘You're not looking at it right’. I... that impressed me. That... that made me realise that he was... he was trying to see it in a new way, which was good. And I think this is part of what I was talking about, the last question, you know, about seeing it right, seeing it... You have to have a different pair of glasses to see the new art now. I don't think that whole thing, curating and... it's not in the studio, and I'm interested in the studio. I'm interested in criticisms; I'm not particularly interested in what people write afterwards. Very seldom does it touch me enough to... to really make me rethink. Your thing in "The Listener" did, but I mean occasionally... and something that Richard Cork wrote one time did, and something... some things people have said about shows have interested me enough to shake me, but, by and large, it's in the studio. It's in the studio; that's when it's... your criticism is counting – when somebody comes into your studio and you say, ‘What do you think?’ and you just see their face or you... or they... or they say, ‘Have you tried doing that instead or, you know, maybe you could make a step there or something’. I mean this sort of thing is... is terrific; it's a real help because you try it, and I mean I always say to Pat, who is not a sculptor but he's been with me for donkey's years, ‘What do you think, Pat?’ And he's intelligent and he says, ‘Um... what is it, wait, I saw you looking at it and doing that; now, what were you looking at? What were you looking at? What is it that's bothering you?’ And then he will say, ‘Have you thought of doing that?’ And I said, ‘No, let's try it’. I will say, ‘Let's try it’. Not always. I mean, if it's totally against the meaning of the sculpture, no, but by and large it's not against the meaning because he's in there; he's in there making them with me. He knows what I'm trying to get at, so when he says, ‘Let's do this, or should we do this, or should you do this’, then I say, ‘It's worth a try; let's try it’. And if it's wrong we don't. And that's very like working with Hans Spinner, say, who will also say... I said, ‘Well, can you do this, can you do that?’ He'd say, ‘Yes, and let's’. You know? And you'd go and get a... a block of wood and hit it in some ways, and I would never have thought of doing that, you know? So in a way these people are bringing a new expertise – a new technical expertise or a new aesthetic expertise or something – to your work. We have to try it; we have to have a go to see if it works.

British sculptor Sir Anthony Caro (1924-2013) came to prominence in 1963 after a show at the Whitechapel Gallery. Keen to create a more direct interaction with the viewer he placed pieces directly on the ground, rather than on plinths, a technique now widely used. He held many honorary degrees and was knighted in 1987.

Listeners: Tim Marlow

Tim Marlow is a writer, broadcaster and art historian. He founded "Tate: The Art Magazine" in 1993 and was presenter of Radio 4 arts programme "Kaleidoscope" from 1991 to 1998, for which he won a Sony Award. He has presented art programme's on BBC 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5, including a documentary about JMW Turner, and written about art and culture for various British newspapers and magazines including "The Guardian", "The Times" and "Blueprint" He is Director of Exhibitions at the White Cube gallery in London as well as a visiting lecturer at Winchester School of Art, an examiner on the Sculpture MA there and former creative director of Sculpture at Goodwood

Tags: Tate Show, Paul Moorhouse, Michael Fried, Bryan Robertson, Hans Spinner

Duration: 4 minutes, 35 seconds

Date story recorded: November 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008