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Clara M Kim

In Conversation with
Iona Whittaker
New York, 27 May 2015
Photo credit: Scott Groller
Photo credit: Scott Groller

Clara M Kim has been appointed curator of Spotlight

, the section of Frieze Masters in London and Frieze New York aimed at presenting works by noted artists of the 20th century. Kim comes to Frieze from REDCAT gallery in Los Angeles and more recently the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where she was senior curator of visual arts from 2011 to 2013. As an independent curator since late 2013, Kim curated a solo exhibition by Mark Bradford at Rockbund Art Museum and a show of Paulo Bruscky’s work at Galeria Nara Roesler Galerie in São Paolo. In Asia last year, Kim served on the advisory committee for Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai and was involved in selecting artists for the Hugo Boss Asia Art Award. She was also on the advisory committee for 2014 Media City Seoul, having co-curated the event in 2010. It is expected that Kim will bring a wider perspective to Frieze Spotlight based on her work in the US and with South American and Asian art. Currently Kim is the curator of an exhibition, Happy Together, which recently opened at Tina Kim Gallery’s new space on 21st street in New York.

We have just come to the end of Frieze week in New York. What did you see apart from the fair?

I saw the excellent shows at MoMA including the powerful Jacob Lawrence Migration Series, Latin American Architecture and the Yoko Ono retrospective, as well as Tseng Kwong Chi at Grey Art Gallery and the new Whitney Museum.

To date you have been working in contemporary art between the US and Asian countries—mainly Korea. What is your experience of working in London, and what do you feel are the specific conditions you will be addressing there as a curator for Frieze Art Fair?

Actually, my work over the last 10 years has been researching and working with artists in Asia and Latin America, through the perspective of Los Angeles, i.e. outside the mainstream so-called centers of the art world. That has afforded me the opportunity to have a slightly outside perspective, looking to alternative histories and the intricacies of global developments in contemporary art. I will bring that to the Spotlight section of Frieze, and use it as a platform to expand my networks and knowledge.

What is your feeling about the opportunity for showing more Asian art in the UK? What is the most important aspect around its integration, either on the side of presentation or reception?

An effort to understand and open one’s mind to new art histories—in terms of reception. And in terms of presentation, not dumbing down or simplifying content for audiences.

Is there a particular artist whose practice you feel connects with your vision for your work?


Can you introduce some of your criteria for selecting artists for Spotlight?

Spotlight will introduce established artists of note who are critical to the development of contemporary art within different regions and in different contexts. They may be artists who are foundational—the  “firsts” or pioneers in their field or artists completely from left field who are dancing to their own drumbeat, as well as those who have been influential for generations of contemporary artists. Of priority are artists who have particular resonance today, connecting the dots from past to present.

What do you feel you will bring to the program, in terms of personal aims; and what are your aspirations for the featured artists and works beyond this platform?

An opportunity to bring important, under-recognised artists into the limelight.

Moving to talk about the exhibition you curated at Tina Kim Gallery, Happy Together —how does this reflect your aspirations for the showing of Asian art in the US?

The exhibition is a group presentation of what I think are the most interesting emerging and mid-career artists working in Asia today. What they share is an interest in responding to present conditions of contemporary life and the way that history, politics, religion etc. shape private and public space. Using humor, parody and wit, as well as poetic and a documentary approaches, these artists engage with the complex dynamics of everyday life through their own artistic language.

Across all the work you have done internationally, what are you most proud of so far?

Bringing Abraham Cruzvillegas’ first survey exhibition to Mexico—his home country—via Minneapolis (Walker Art Center) and Munich (Haus der Kunst) was particularly gratifying; also displaying Mark Bradford’s extraordinary body of commissioned paintings inspired by colonial maps of Shanghai at the Rockbund Art Museum; and a small but punchy show of the artists books of the venerable Brazilian artist Paulo Bruscky which traveled from São Paulo to Los Angeles and is now in New York (at Estrellita Brodsky’s foundation space, Another Space).

What would you say you are you most loyal to?


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