Glasgow International’s originating curator Francis Mckee discusses his third and final instalment of the festival and its official inauguration as a biennial. Reflecting on the young history of the event, McKee recounts its beginnings and achievements, and looks forward as a new director is appointed for the 2010–2012 editions.
Gi grew out of the RAW weekend which in turn was an offshoot of Glasgow Art Fair. There was a feeling that it would be good to direct the public to the galleries and organisations that worked on art all year round, beyond the one-off visits of the art fair. I was asked to curate the festival and it was that curation aspect which was important in establishing a standard for the work included in the programme. Essentially, the festival curator would approve each project included and create some consistency, steering it towards the international contemporary art world. The idea was to showcase local artists who were recognised internationally as well as artists from abroad.
Equally, I wanted to highlight the work of each artist-run space, and the various galleries in the city. This has meant there is a broad spectrum of established and emerging artists and a high degree of commitment across the art world in Glasgow.I think the greatest achievement has been the co-operation of all of the organisations across the city and the unanimous support of a broad range of funders. After the first Gi I think everyone was aware of just how broad the arts infrastructure is in Glasgow. It’s unusual to see such an intense collaboration between so many different partners in an event like this and, in the end, it seems to work relatively smoothly.
The festival spirit seems to have survived in Gi. The event itself has grown substantially since it started, so each one in future will now draw in more participants and venues. I think more associated events will spring up around the festival—music, performance, cinema etc.
This year already marks the emergence of a significant series of satellite visual art events. The other key development is the establishment of the curatorial role as a two-festival post. 2008 will be my last Gi and a new curator should be in place for 2010 and 2012 by this April. That adds another important level of engagement— each new curator can demonstrate their take on the Glasgow art scene and introduce different elements into the mix.”
Gi, 11 – 27 April A MAP artists’ commission publication will coincide with Gi and bb5. A MAP discussion on the subject of biennials will be held at CCA, 25 April, 5pm