Blair French has been announced as the curator of the 7th SCAPE Christchurch Biennial of Art in Public Space to be held in September 2013.
French is Executive Director of Artspace Visual Arts Centre in Sydney. Born in the Cook Islands, he grew up in New Zealand and is a graduate of the University of Canterbury. Blair has been based in Sydney since the mid-1990s working as a curator, writer and teacher across a range of practices in art from the late-1960s through to the present.
French was convenor of the curatorial group for the earthquake-beleaguered 6th SCAPE and has agreed to return in a similar role for the 7th SCAPE. He says “I am delighted to have been offered the opportunity to curate 7th SCAPE and in so doing continue work with the Art & Industry Trust, its partners and the Christchurch arts community. It is a wonderful opportunity, a significant challenge and a great responsibility. As is the case across all aspects of life and work in Christchurch, we obviously face a unique situation and set of challenges in developing public art projects in the uncertain and changing post-earthquakes environment. But with these challenges come extraordinary opportunities to reconsider the way in which public art can contribute to processes of community rebuilding and urban development, and to demonstrate its important to the vitality of civic life.”
His reappointment to the role will bring a continuity of curatorial process from the work he has undertaken over the past two and a half years in Christchurch. His knowledge of the SCAPE model has also enabled him to suggest amendments to the curatorial process, and for 7th SCAPE he will be working with a newly appointed International Curatorial Advisors Group and a Christchurch Reference Group who will act as concept sounding boards and provide specialist advice.
Deborah McCormick, Director of SCAPE and the Art & Industry Trust says “We are delighted at the level of consultation that Blair has recommended for 7th SCAPE. The Trust’s vision is for Christchurch people to be excited, engaged and stimulated by highly regarded contemporary public art, and to aid us in delivering this vision, the Christchurch Reference Group from the resident art community has been convened.”
Confirmed members of the Christchurch Reference Group include Tony de Lautour (Artist), Coralie Winn (Gap Filler), John Chrisstoffels (Filmmaker and senior lecturer in Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury), Stephen Cleland (Director of The Physics Room), Lara Strongman (Independent curator and writer), Dr Jacky Bowring (Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Head of School at Lincoln University’s School of Landscape Architecture). The appointment of an International Curatorial Advisors group is currently underway.
While French will work closely with the two advisory groups, he comes to SCAPE with an impressive and full curriculum vitae. He has curated a range of exhibitions in Australia and New Zealand, has published widely including a book of his texts, “Out of Time: Essays Between Photography and Art” (2006) and two books on photography in Australia. He has worked in public galleries in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom and taught at the Universities of New South Wales, Waikato and Western Sydney. He holds a PhD from the University of Sydney, was President of CAOs (Contemporary Arts Organisations Australia) 2006-2009, and is currently an external member of the Academic Board of Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney.
Blair French is in Christchurch on 23rd and 24th April to take part in the SCAPE Public Art Development Workshop and to Chair the panel discussion “The River of Arts: creating new ways for The Arts to work in Christchurch’s public spaces.”