Benedict (Ben) Heywood is the Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Bellevue Arts Museum. Previously, he was Director of Pivot Art + Culture, a gallery and exhibition project of Seattle philanthropist Paul Allen. In Minneapolis, he was the founder of The Soap Factory, a studio, and a laboratory for artistic experimentation across the contemporary visual arts. A British citizen, Ben is a graduate of the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has previously been Deputy Director of The Henry Moore Sculpture Trust in Leeds, UK and a Visual Arts Officer at the Arts Council of England, London, UK.
As a newcomer to the arts on Maui, I am excited to experience the breadth and depth of artistic practice on the island and am keen to have artists and makers in all genres and media to submit their work for the exhibition. There is a challenge to compare like-with-like for a group exhibition, while at the same time also ensuring a generous presentation of the diverse genres and media, however, I will want to make sure that what is finally selected and exhibited will be an accurate cross-section of Maui visual arts practice. A juried exhibition is very different from that of a traditional curated exhibition.
As a museum curator, one might want to sort through varied artistic media and content to build a coherent theme or polemic for exhibition, in the juried exhibition context, the juror/curator must consider work across all media, genre, and subject, looking at the best of each, and discounting the potential opportunity where it might be more effective to show in-depth rather than in breath. A juried exhibition must demonstrate breadth: the challenge is to make effective choices to privilege a single example of an artist’s work that exemplifies the excellence of an artistic or geographic group as a whole.
Artwork is to be judged through a series of factors: the artists’ command of their chosen medium; the coherence of their vision for their work; and the accuracy of their subject, be that subject formal or conceptual. The key factor, however, always, in over 30 years of curating, jurying and selecting, is whether a work can bring something new to the particular argument – again formal or conceptual – with which the artist wishes the work to engage.
All art has a function; and that function can be polemic, practical or simply a presentation of beauty or skill. All successful – a definition of ‘good’ – art must therefore in some way contain within itself the knowledge of its utility. Communicating that knowledge and self-sufficiency is the mark of a successful artist. Without clear conceptual confidence of an artwork’s utility – the purpose for which it was made – art is only just so much empty canvas, paint, ink, paper, metal, and clay.