This PhD by Published Work critically analyses a series of five exhibitions curated by the author at London Art Fair between 2016-2020, which form the portfolio of projects within this thesis. Each exhibition explored notions of temporality and site, focusing on how these concepts are reframed and problematised by being examined within a contemporary art fair.
The motivation for the projects stemmed from researching curated art shows from recent years that addressed notions of time and finding a lack of analysis in relation to how these might be affected by their location, which suggested a new field of enquiry. To address this area, the curatorial aim of each exhibition within the portfolio sought to test how differing conceptions of temporality – whether an artwork might be considered permanent or ephemeral, finished or unfinished, occurring now or in the past – might impact upon and be impacted by ideas of site – such as whether an artwork is physical or virtual, located within the art fair or situated elsewhere.
The methodology that guided the portfolio of projects was transversal and brought together analytical systems from three differing areas of intellectual enquiry, combining a rhizomatic approach, which emphasised the interconnected nature of the exhibitions, with methods derived from phenomenology (to promote a questioning of received definitions relating to location and time) and institutional critique (to critically engage with the art fair setting). The outcomes from the portfolio support the contention that curatorial practice, temporality and site are not discrete elements within a contemporary art fair environment, but rather forces that are wholly interdependent. Additionally, the physical and temporal boundaries of the exhibited artworks, and the exhibition as a whole, might be considered problematic to define with any fixity.
This PhD thesis proposes a twofold contribution to new knowledge as a result: firstly, that a fuller appreciation of the interaction between curation, setting and temporality within curated exhibitions at contemporary art fairs requires a conceptualisation of these three factors as being a single entity; secondly, that this entity can encompass, without contradiction, multiple definitions of both location and temporality.