Christie’s Curates: A Game-changing Exhibition by 4 Young Christie’s Specialists

Walking around the ‘Christies Curates: Past Perfect / Future Present‘ private view on Thursday evening 11th June, I was astounded by the scope of historical objects and art on view. Each work seemed to command the space in it’s own unique way, drawing my imagination into an amalgamation of times, places, spaces and modes of being. Inspired by it all,  I got chatting to Tancredi Massimo, one of the four Christies specialists responsible for this truly unique exhibition, to find out a bit more about what it took to get this show together.

'Christies Curates: Past Perfect / Future Present,' 2015
‘Christies Curates: Past Perfect / Future Present,’ 2015

ArtAttack: What was your inspiration for this show?

Tancredi Massimo: Rather than inspiration we all worked incredibly hard as a team of four in thinking of a new and fresh way to present this annual exhibition. It was an absolute privilege to work alongside the other three curators Alina Brezhneva, Bianca Chu and Milo Dickinson in putting it together. Rather than having a uniform theme running throughout, we decided that it was much more engaging to attempt to make each room unique in its own way.

AA: What criteria did you use for selecting works to include?

TM: We definitely just chose the works that we loved. Instead of simply showing the highlights from our summer sales we decided to choose works based on the part that they could play in the whole concept. When you start mixing works from completely different categories, centuries and tastes, it is vital that they make sense together. This link can be based on the physicality or form or simply on the idea behind the work, however it must make sense.

AA: How did you decide on which emerging artists to exhibit?

TM: We got to work straight away searching for our emerging artists but I have to say that I played a very small part in this! My job tends to bring me into contact with more traditional works and so I felt slightly under-qualified for this important task. I left that up to Bianca and Alina who are much more up-to-date than I am, however we all reviewed the artists together and selected them as a unit. We were delighted to work with James Balmforth, Armand Boua, Olga Chernysheva and Harry Sanderson on this project and truly feel that their works served as the foundations on which we built each room.

AA: What do you think is most striking about the show?

TM: The sheer diversity of the works on view. You can go from seeing a Breughel and a Bacon hanging side by side in one room to a Mark 1 spitfire engine placed in close proximity to the iconic bicorne hat of Napoleon Bonaparte himself in another!

'Christies Curates: Past Perfect / Future Present,' 2015
‘Christies Curates: Past Perfect / Future Present,’ 2015

AA: What do you hope to invoke in your viewers?

TM: I would say that our main aim is to have our visitors wondering what will be around the next corner… We have also decided to change the way we display by hanging some of our Old Master paintings such as a wonderful Teniers in modern free-standing scaffolding. This allows the viewer to turn detective as they are able to see exhibition labels and other vital information charting the provenance of the pictures which are normally hidden from view. Our intention was to allow our visitors to transform into temporary specialists for the time that they are in our exhibition rooms at Christie’s King Street.

 AA: Which is your favourite piece in the exhibition?

TM: I would have to say the elephant bird egg. The shape and texture of the shell shows nature itself as sculptor and due to the incredibly clever way this wonderful object is mounted, can confuse the viewer into thinking it is a work by Constantin Brâncuși himself. Its fragility paired with the hypnotizing presence it has in a room makes it fantastic thing. 

AA: What next?

TM: Back to the day job! I work as a General Valuer for the Estates, Appraisals and Valuations department at Christie’s. My role is to visit private collections and together with the help of my colleagues, provide an up-to-date and accurate inventory of their collection. I love what I do as I am able to enter the very personal world of each collector, getting to know the thoughts and reasons behind their choices and buying history. ‘Past Perfect / Future Present’ has been a unique experience however in order for ‘Christie’s Curates’ to remain fresh, a new set of eyes and ideas is needed next year for what I hope will go beyond our own efforts.

Christie’s Curates is an absolute must-see!

'Christies Curates: Past Perfect / Future Present,' 2015
‘Christies Curates: Past Perfect / Future Present,’ 2015

– Imogen Baxter

Christies Curates: Past Perfect / Future PresentI’ is on view until Tuesday 16 June at Christie’s King Street; Remaining Hours are Monday 15 June, 9am – 8pm and Tuesday 16 June, 9am – 1pm; Admission: FREE

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