Our tenth visiting artist was Richard Parry, curator of the Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool, where he has worked since 2013. In his time at the Grundy Art Gallery he has curated and organised over 15 exhibitions. The gallery is largely formed of Cuthbert Grundy’s collection, although this is never on permanent display, but is part of a temporary exhibitions programme. Included in this collection are oils and watercolours, jewellery, video, ceramics, photographs, etc. However, despite the largely traditional collection, the gallery has become far more contemporary in recent years.
Before working at the Grundy, Parry held a job as Assistant Curator at the Hayward Gallery, where he organised and curated exhibitions including ‘Psycho Buildings’ (2008; named by the Guardian as one of their top 10 exhibitions of the decade), so he was not new to the job requirements. His work as a curator is interesting, as obviously all galleries have challenges to contend with such as obtaining governmental funding. However, being situated in Blackpool, the Grundy’s main challenge is attracting visitors to the city and exhibitions. Parry describes this as being the downside of being in a city so far away from everything, also he maintains that it creates more artistic creativity than if they were in London, like with the Hayward Gallery. Certainly, the exhibitions there draw on Blackpool’s heritage itself, as well as exploring contemporary art and popular culture alongside the works in the Grundy collection.
Despite these limitations of being situated in London, Psycho Buildings at the Hayward Gallery was an exceptionally well-received exhibition. It made use of the London skyline, incorporating it into the exhibition as shown in the boating lake installed on top of the sculpture terraces.
Wide Open School (2012) is a particularly interesting project that Parry curated. In this project, the Hayward Gallery on Southbank wasn’t hosting an exhibition, but rather was transformed into a ‘school for those who like learning but don’t particularly like schools’, a place where artists, chosen on a first-come first-served basis, could share knowledge and advance each others’ understanding in a collaborative environment. It seems to be a much more free and less dictatorial alternative to traditional teaching methods, with a diverse and interesting ‘faculty’ with artists such as Bob and Roberta Smith, Gillian Wearing, and Tracy Emin.