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29 April 2008

Curatorial Course


Christopher Menz: The Art Gallery of South Australia commenced the joint program in art history with the University of Adelaide in 2001. What we'd been wanting to do for some years is actually have the collection being used as the primary source for an art historical program to be taught with the university.

Associate Professor Catherine Speck: The courses that we teach - the art history courses - are built around the gallery's collection itself, so they've got a collection of European art, Australian art and Asian art. We also teach contemporary art, modern art, Japanese art, South-East Asian art. The beauty of this particular course that we teach, the university and the art gallery together, is that it's totally different from art history courses in universities where you're learning about European art or Australian art in a lecture theatre. Here we actually come into the gallery spaces. So if we're looking at one of the paintings in this gallery in European art, where we're looking at 19th-century paintings, we're talking about the paintings as they appear in the gallery spaces, how they are when they're lit. The paintings just jump off the wall and talk to us, in a sense. It's a very dynamic, a very exciting way to teach art history. But also, the curators come in, they'll talk about why they selected that particular painting to hang. So we're dealing with connoisseurship, we're dealing with issues of display and we just weave the art history in with all these curatorial issues as well.

Lecturer: The work of Jackson Pollock, who was working in America and working in an extremely gestural way.

Christopher Menz: We have students from overseas in the course. They get to get this first-hand knowledge of this terrific collection, but also they can take that back with them to the countries they come from.

Lihua Jiang: I'm here in the course firstly because I love art, and second, I think the course's structure, the course design, is really attractive for me. It contains two big sections. One is the university section and another is art gallery section. That means we don't just have excellent lecturer at the university, we also have the gallery section. In gallery section, we experience all the works of art. It's like a first-hand experience. I think it's very invaluable for me - probably for every student here. And also it's very interesting.

Ganesh Sundaramoorthy: I always had a passion, an interest in art, and I was looking through all the various universities and courses available to me and I saw this one at the Art Gallery of South Australia and the University of Adelaide, where I could actually come into the gallery and learn from the curators as well. So that was a major drawcard that really sealed it and I was here.

Lecturer: There's a lack of emotion in her face. There's a much harder...

Associate Professor Catherine Speck: Our students are doing extremely well, and I think you can put that down to the fact that they're learning both art history and curatorial and museum studies from the experts, from the people who practise it every day, from gallery directors, from curators, people who are in the business.

Ajeng Arainikasih: I enrolled in this course because I want to study about museum and curatorial studies and of course about the art history, especially Asian art. I come to Australia just to do this course. I learn about how to look at the works of arts from different perspective, like looking at the compositions of the arts, the styles, the background of why the art has been that way.

Associate Professor Catherine Speck: The students from the Asian countries coming to take curatorial museum studies is increasing. It's a totally unique way of teaching curatorial and museum studies. So it's not just the curators. We bring in people in registration, we bring in people in collection development, in managing exhibitions, in marketing, and our students are learning from people whose bread and butter is writing media releases, or doing exhibition budgets or working out how to hang an exhibition. The skills they're getting are wonderful, they're first-rate, and they're able to then take those back to their countries they've come from and apply them. They do internships here at the art gallery, they do internships at a number of galleries in Adelaide, but they can also do internships interstate, and I've got one student wanting to do his internship next year overseas as well.

Lihua Jiang: I think that the skill, the knowledge I learned I can use for all my life.

Ganesh Sundaramoorthy: This course has given me the grounding and an understanding of how to look at art differently and understand it properly.

Ajeng Arainikasih: I hope back home I will teach in my old university about museums and curatorial studies.

Christopher Menz: So far the course has been remarkably successful. Enrolment's increasing each year and we are always looking at developing new subjects from it and also working out ways to expand it in the future. So it's been a really great success and a really wonderful thing to have introduced.