Where does the best original thinking about art happen today? In university departments and research institutes? In the curatorial departments of museums and galleries? At biennales and the like? Or perhaps these are all red herrings; I have heard people argue that best thinking about both historical and contemporary art takes place in practicing artists’ studios.
When we first decided to create the Apollo 40 Under 40, we took various comparable lists into account. All too often, academics, writers and museum curators find themselves sidelined in these things. This is probably because they work at a remove from the money that makes the art world spin; in the case of academia, at least, it may also be due to a lingering hermeticism that frankly helps no-one. We certainly felt it was necessary – no, imperative – to create a portmanteau category of ‘Thinkers’, giving us scope to include figures who are doing brilliant things to challenge how we look at, and think about art.
In this category, perhaps more than any other, the nominations we received were weighted towards young people from Britain, or Europeans who now work in the UK. For all that one frequently hears laments in this country about the lack of opportunities for young academics and curators – the result of significant funding cuts, swathes of red tape and so on – it is salutary to be reminded that in the north of Europe there are still senior jobs open to ambitious minds.
During my own time in academia, I was astonished by how few researchers seemed interested in translating their knowledge to any audience beyond their narrow specialism. Why were so few people willing to discuss teaching, curating, journalism, or broadcasting? These are just some of the means through which we transmit information and – more importantly – ways of thinking to a broad and interested public. This may well be easier in a museum or gallery context than a university, but it is fundamental in both. So for me, this category should represent generosity of thinkers, as much as the quality of the thought itself.
Who do you think deserves a place among ‘The Thinkers’ in the Apollo 40 Under 40?