How not to curate (Rankin)

On Tuesday evening, I went to see the retrospective exhibition ‘Visually Hungry’, the work of UK and internationally renowned photographer Rankin currently on display until tomorrow (17th June) at Xintiandi Style, a high-end shopping mall, here in Shanghai. As my Grandfather (Poppa as I called him) was a photographer, I was constantly educated about prolific, influential and historic photographers that have defined the scene, carving a reality in the world through the use of a lens, where Rankin‘s name was one of those that I repeatedly heard. I knew he was skilled and incredibly well-respected where this exhibition presents a broad spectrum of photographs from his notable career. My favourite image was that of model Devon Aoki…just because I think she is interestingly beautiful…no other reason!

So Rankin definitely, definitely, definitely does not deserve simple curatorial mistakes as part of his show…some shown below. I think this is his first show in Shanghai too…the first stop of a China tour. It is not really starting on the right foot to be honest and I really hope that it picks up its curatorial heels and doesn’t make the same mistakes again. An example of how not to curate that’s for sure. Seriously, how difficult is it to reprint a text panel or label?! Or to research and spell Kevin Spacey’s name correctly?! They’ve used a biro for crying out loud! Attention to detail is paramount in exhibitions, even more so with photographic works. It was also disappointing to see some of the prints had become damp in the frames so the prints were no longer flat. I know this is partially unavoidable in climates like Shanghai, and also in the transitory space where the work is presented. Climate cannot be controlled as it should be. One further thing that made me smile was the fact that the curator’s statement was as long, and in the same font size, as the introductory statement, which immediately reminds you about the status and power games within the art world here. Name is everything for some people in China. Frustrating to see.

A good friend Josephine Taylor recently organised another exhibition of his work in London called ‘Inspired by Sport’, where Rankin teamed up with Olympic and Paralympic stars, Lord Seb Coe and a host of other international photographers. It was on display at the Museum of London in conjunction with the London Olympics for a couple of weeks in May. Sadly, I didn’t get to see it but heard super positive feedback about it. Talk of London reminds me that it was funny seeing Chinese girls pose with the standard formulaic Asian poses by the photograph of the Queen…I need to tell you about how I experienced the Queen’s Jubilee…another time as this post was supposed to be short! All I can say is Rankin, you’d better keep tabs on the tour…they might get the biro out again.

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