Home Arts The curator playing matchmaker between emerging artists and Aspen collectors

The curator playing matchmaker between emerging artists and Aspen collectors

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“I hallucinate what I desire”, wrote Roland Barthes in Speech of a lover: fragments, his 1977 book of literary ruminations on the conditions of intimacy. This notion of nostalgia as a creative impulse is central to Speech of a lover, a series of exhibitions at the Aspen Art Museum (AAM) that includes six separate month-long presentations juxtaposing pieces by early-career artists with historic works from private collections in Aspen, a community renowned for its high concentration of great patrons of the arts. The series was conceived by AAM Traveling Curator Stella Bottai, a London-based curator, writer and academic who also runs the contemporary art program of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii.

“I really appreciated that the artists responded to the invitations with enthusiasm, because it’s kind of like a blind date,” says Bottai. “We are a non-collecting museum, there is no database to draw from, so the teamwork aspect is important. By talking to my colleagues in Aspen, we understand which collection may contain the type of work that artists are interested in.

Artist Zeinab Saleh, whose work is featured in the first version of Speech of a lover Courtesy of the artist

The series, which launched at the end of June and runs until January 2024, opened with a pair of monochromatic aquatic paintings by the London-based Kenyan artist. Zeinab Saleh juxtaposed with regeneration (1987), German artist Katharina Fritsch’s vinyl recording of Rainfall (until July 22).

“Zeinab was really interested in trying to provide a reading of her paintings that moved away from the simple two-dimensional surface to create atmosphere,” says Bottai. “I was thrilled that Katharina was genuinely interested in understanding how this young artist came to this work. So while it’s something that may not be formally apparent to the public, there’s this another layer of dialogue that happens in the background.

Chase Hall, whose works will be presented in the second part of Speech of a lover Photo by Lauren Rodriguez Hall, courtesy of the artist

The second installment of the series (July 27-August 27) will feature recent works by Chase Hall, the American painter known for his compositions made with a mixture of acrylic paints and coffee. “Chase was very interested in connecting with post-war abstraction,” says Bottai. “We found an amazing work on paper by Jackson Pollock in the collection of Larry and Susan Marx. For Chase, it was also a way to start thinking about Pollock’s drip through labor politics.

By bringing together unexpected artistic genres, eras and media, Bottai hopes Speech of a lover will expand Barthes’ legacy into a visual realm, exploring the tensions between the manifest and the clandestine, desire and need.

“This notion of a network of collectors joins the idea of Speech of a lover, because, again, there is this sense of desire and ownership that is part of the pursuit of the collector,” she says. “When artists respond to existing collections in museums, they have information about what is already there. In our case, we are told what the artist would like to find, and then we make it happen.

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