Interview: Peter Doroshenko
by Wendy Vogel
Peter Doroshenko just took the helm as the new Executive Director of Dallas Contemporary. …might be good caught up with him to ask about his vision for the institution, its new home on Glass Street and future projects in the works.
…might be good [...mbg]: You worked in both the U.S. and Europe as a museum director and curator, in institutions like the CAMH in Houston, the Institute of Visual Arts (Inova) in Milwaukee, SMAK in Ghent, Belgium and the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, U.K. Can you talk about the differences in those two contexts and your decision to return to Texas?
Peter Doroshenko [PD]: The main difference between the U.S. and institutions in Europe is funding. In Europe it’s much more of a government-funded situation. Artistically, I think the quality is the same, but there’s more of a spectrum in Europe. Specifically, younger artists are given more of an opportunity at most institutions in Europe than they are in the U.S. That fact, for me, underlined what I’d like to do here at the Dallas Contemporary. I’d like to create a mix where we exhibit emerging, mid-career, and once in a while, senior artists who have maybe fallen through the cracks of art history, or are still producing work in the studio but haven’t been under the media or exhibition spotlight. For me, it’s creating the best of both worlds.
…mbg: You were an important voice in building a discursive and informed community in Kiev about contemporary art when there really was no understanding of it, and in 2006, you became President and Artistic Director of the Pinchuk Art Centre. What challenges do you see in building an audience at the Dallas Contemporary?
PD: Kiev was an extreme case where people were very unfamiliar with contemporary art. There were some art venues, but no major ones. In Dallas, people are very well-versed on contemporary art, especially artists and students and people who support contemporary culture. Reaching beyond that is an important goal of the Dallas Contemporary. And I see the formula as really easy one: not being locked into just one thing. Being in the design district, we should think about some programming about design at some point in the near future. I think a lot of artists are engaged in projects beyond their studio practice—which includes, architecture, design, fashion, music and performance. So I see the Dallas Contemporary as a mirror to artists working around the world.
…mbg: Some of your past exhibitions have taken structures of display and national ideology into critical examination, such as the last two Ukrainian pavilions at the Venice Biennial that you commissioned (Juergen Teller’s solo exhibition, A Poem About an Inland Sea in 2007, and the two-person exhibition Steppes of Dreamers, curated by heavyweight boxer Wladimir Klitschko, in 2009). Will you incorporate such metacuratorial moves into your work at the Dallas Contemporary?
PD: Possibly. You know, Venice is like the Olympics of the artworld. I think most group shows are pretty shallow and are better magazine articles than actual exhibitions. So when I was given the opportunity of doing something that was a group show, or a two-person show, my idea was really to go where other people were not thinking and not doing.
The Venice projects are something very unusual for me, and I think the same applies for the Dallas Contemporary. If there’s a group show, there has to be a good reason for it. In terms of how to tackle it, it really depends on who organizes it, either myself or someone else. As opposed to the Venice Biennial projects, I leave that kind of open-ended.
…mbg: Can you talk a bit about the new building?
PD: We are in the process of moving into a new building in June and we’re slowly working on upgrading and finishing our capital campaign. The idea is to create a top-notch facility where artists can work on exhibitions and really not worry about the architecture, but rather on their projects. So many people are so focused on museum architecture that the artists are not getting their due. It’s refreshing to be an anti-museum, and to focus on exciting artistic ideas. We’re bringing the building to a world class level where artists will be excited to work in, even though it may be extremely unorthodox.
…mbg: What exhibitions are being planned, for 2011 or beyond?
PD: I can tell you about one exhibition that will open in September 2011. We’re doing a one-person exhibition of Elaine Sturtevant, which will be her first major exhibition organized solely by a U.S. institution.
It will travel to both coasts. Even though she is 82 years old, if you take a look at Sturtevant’s work, it looks very young, like someone who just got out of graduate school. I like that age is not a factor in her work. It’s the ideas that count, and the whole thought process. That’s how we can become a center of excellence, by focusing on art and the artists.
…mbg: Will that exhibition be a retrospective?
PD: It will be a survey of the videos and films.
…mbg: Finally, can you talk about how the Texas art world has changed since your days at the CAMH in the 1990s?
PD: The art scene has really become international. Before a lot of artists felt comfortable in a Texas ghetto, or even a city ghetto, but now no artist wants to be called a Houston or Dallas or Austin artist. They just want to be called an artist, and the only way to really do that is to exhibit outside the city where you live.
I think a lot of people that come to Texas for the first time are blown away by the institutions and programming. Any biases they had instantly disappear. Between the Menil, the Fort Worth Modern, the DMA, the Nasher, you can go on and on and on… And I think a lot of people are taking notice, and it’s not just in the U.S. You can ask someone about Istanbul or Israel about Dallas and they’ve heard something. As long as they’re plugged into contemporary art, they know something’s happening in Texas.
Wendy Vogel is Editor of ...might be good.