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Curating the East Midlands: Hugo Worthy

Hugo Worthy is Arts Curator at the Leicester Gallery, De Montfort University. He has been Exhibitions Officer for Contemporary Art at New Walk Museum and Art Gallery and worked at City Gallery until its closure in 2010. He has curated a series of major exhibitions of contemporary art in exploring themes around pedagogy, play and performativity featuring artists Erwin Wurm and Angela Bulloch, and Copenhagen Free University, been involved in research exploring the ways in which participatory and performative practices can be collected by museums. He has also curated solo projects by Gerhard Richter, August Sander, and Rosalind Nashashibi.

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Nothing Human is Strange to Me, Ben Judd. Photograph courtesy the artist

Who’s in the team at Leicester Gallery?

The team comprises me, Arts Curator,  Hannah Longden, Retail and Operations Officer, Morgan Stockton, Learning and Marketing Coordinator, and Neisa Mason, Technical coordinator.

How have you come to your programming roles?

I graduated in fine art in London. During my degree I realised I was probably more interested in writing and talking about art than in making objects, and undertook a postgraduate degree that allowed me to focus on theory. I also had a role as an invigilator at the wonderful Estorick Collection, where I spent a year reading. I then picked up various jobs in London around the edges of curatorial practice, and after endless applications finally landed a role as a gallery coordinator in Leicester at The City Gallery in 2005. Until this point I had sustained an independent artistic practice (the highlight of which was being selected for EAST 2005 by Gustav Metzger) but realised that this was in conflict with my curatorial work. My artistic practice tended to look very curatorial. From here I progressed through various roles within Leicester City Council, across to New Walk Museum and Art Gallery before becoming the first curator at De Montfort University’s new gallery.

Nothing Human is Strange to Me, Ben Judd. Photograph courtesy the artist

How do you work as a programming team?

We deliver a backbone of reflective, research driven programming team, so it is important to us to have deep reach into contemporary practice. We have significant experience in collecting and presenting performance based work that underpins much of what we do. The strategic story for Leicester Gallery is around engagement and the artist we work with all speak to ideas around this area, albeit in very different ways. We also allow space in our schedules for short run, responsive exhibitions that allow communities, students and staff to co-opt the spaces for grassroots models of creative practice.

What strands are there to the Gallery programme?

We deliver our exhibitions programme, a broad events programme ranging from artists talks to catwalk events and our families workshops programme.

Nothing Human is Strange to Me, Ben Judd. Photograph courtesy the artist

How do you select the artists you work with?

Through recommendation or submission for our short run shows. We expect artist to be aware of our programming history and have a dialogue with our interest especially around models of engagement. We then assess the project in terms of impact and relevance.

What’s happening behind the scenes at the moment?

Our new strategy is going to print and we are developing the program for the 20/21 season.

Nothing Human is Strange to Me, Ben Judd. Photograph courtesy of the artist

Who are you working with at the moment?

Ben Judd’s project and exhibition Nothing Human is Strange to Me grows out of our work with Fig Futures, and opening in Autumn ‘20

Tell us about your current exhibition or upcoming exhibition or project.

Drawing on Leicester’s rich history, including the 20th century immigration of dispossessed groups, Nothing Human is Strange to Me suggests a lost community once occupied the area now inhabited by De Montfort University. Key themes of the community are explored through the performance, which reveals the characters that form the group’s hierarchy and its factions. The exhibition is an invitation to experience the community’s internal logic – it has a belief system, and a history that is evidenced through the displays.

Nothing Human is Strange to Me is a continuation of a project first presented for a week as part of Fig Futures in 2018 and enriches the fictional world that Judd and his collaborators have begun to construct.

Cocoon, Kyle Abraham. Photograph by Tamara Wills

What dates should we put in our calendars?

6pm September 17th, opening performance and launch for Nothing Human is Strange to Me.

What or who are you really excited about?

Kyle Abraham performing his new work Cocoon at Leicester Gallery on 29th of April 2020 as a part of Serendipity’s Let’s Dance International Frontiers.

Dragon of Profit and Private Ownership, Walker and Bromwich. Photograph courtesy the artists

What do we need to see more of in the East Midlands?

Sunshine.

 

Hugo was interviewed in March 2020.