Curatorial development in Scotland

Response to discussion with Lisa le Feuvre and Tom Morton

The lingering memory hanging over from last Saturday’s afternoon with Lisa le Feuvre and Tom Morton comes in the form of clearly remembering several facial expression from fellow participants: a raised discerning eyebrow followed by an uneasy shifting of eyes as if silently asking, “What? Really?”

The expressions came near the end, responding immediately to le Feuvre’s question of whether anyone in the room had thought about curating the BAS. That question, on paper, is fine, and potentially interesting to consider as a long term professional goal. Only, the question came after 90 minutes of tense pauses, well-practiced double-team promotional pitching, and vague attempts to cut through the double-speak of “unspectacular legacies” and being “experts in the present”. While the group, or the small handful who spoke, seemed directly interested in the politics, logistics and marketing of an animal such as BAS, its role as a rejuvenation event, as an appeal to the idealized broad public, the curators would only indulge in how they found all of that the least interesting, yet could not seem to separate or differentiate how their curatorial choices existed outside of the system. While their curatorial focus has been on selecting individual works of merit, history cannot be escaped, and motfis cannot be suppressed. The exhibition of BAS 7 may be trying to do something different than previous editions, but there is no convincing argument that the system of a large group show based on such a loose parameter of “British in the past 5 years” can be anything but a survey show.

Looking back, the discussion wasn’t so much a discussion then as it was a sales pitch starting from the point of self-denial. Comfortably playing off each other, though visibly exhausted and drained as they approach their fourth and final installment of BAS 7, Morton and le Feuvre stayed firm to their message, filling in each pregnant pause to keep the pitch alive. In the moment I thought they were just too well rehearsed to do anything but stay on course, even if the atmosphere wanted something different, but in light of the question proposed by le Feuvre at the end, their determinate denial feels more like a steadfast reflection of their own affirmation of the system, one that they feel they may have changed in some way.

I went to see The British Art Show 7 again the next day, and my favorite works remain Christian Marclay’s The Clock and Luke Fowler’s collaboration with Toshiya Tsunoda. It doesn’t actually matter if Marclay isn’t  British (though he sometimes spends time in his London home), but why it doesn’t matter is certainly one (missing) entry point towards discussing the relevance of carrying on and on this exhibition. And in attempting to explore this further, we would require a considered and realistic perspective on how we exist within a moving history of politics, and not just a belief of existing hermetically (and with expertise, no doubt!) in the present.

Amy Fung is the Visiting Arts Writer at For more information, visit