Emma Kelly is Head Curator at Python Properties delivering a diverse programme of exhibitions and events in the North West, as well as the Assistant Curator and Mark Tanner Sculpture Award coordinator at Standpoint Gallery – currently on tour at Cross Lane Projects in Kendal, Cumbria.
1: How did you get into this industry? What was your journey?
I’d always had my heart set on it studying art. I did my undergraduate degree in Graphic Arts at Leeds, specialising in Printmaking. The course was very much self-driven, which inevitably developed skills for creating independent projects.
After graduating I joined Hot Bed Press Printmaking Studio in Salford: curating exhibitions in the studio and assisting with larger projects. I soon discovered that I much more preferred assisting other artists than pushing my own practice. I then pursued opportunities for curatorial roles and landed my first job at Python Properties, followed by an MA in Art History and Curating at Liverpool Hope University.
I worked for various organisations over the next six years, including Liverpool Biennial, Warrington Contemporary and then moving to London working as an Associate Curator at Waterside Contemporary and a project in Bilbao at Aldama Fabre Gallery. I am now Assistant Curator at Standpoint Gallery and the Award Administrator for Mark Tanner Sculpture Award.
2. Would you say there is an overall curatorial vision or ethos that ties together the different strands of what you do?
In terms of programming it would depend on the organisation / project I am working for: At Python it was about giving a platform to emerging artists to showcase work for the first time; curating Alexander Duncan exhibition in Bilbao brought Duncan’s work on an International scale. And now at Standpoint, we do not represent artists, but curate shows from submission and invitation, concentrating on emerging/mid-career artists. All my projects are based on collaboration and openness with artists and aim to provide a platform for innovative new work and ideas.
3. How do you approach a new project?
It always begins with understanding an artist’s ambitions for an exhibition and developing a strong understanding of their work.
When working for small organisations like I have / do all administration tasks fall within my curatorial role; including exhibition scheduling, fundraising, writing press releases and managing social media etc. The placement of work in the exhibition evolves quite organically, through continuous conversations with the artist. This then extends throughout other areas of the gallery including the Education Programme where we will host a talk with the artist or In Conversation event.
4. Who or what has inspired you during your career?
My first real taste of programming contemporary art came from my time at Liverpool Biennial – this was most definitely an inspiring time. Then it is always the artists, and their ideas, seeing their commitment to their practice and how I can assist with that within a curatorial and organisational capacity. I received advice from Rosie Cooper (former Programme Curator at LB) when I was starting out in my curatorial career to try and see as many shows as possible. Even when it feels overwhelming, and inevitably you will miss ones, this is most inspiring.
5. Are you able to tell us about any upcoming projects?
We are about to launch the inaugural Mark Tanner Sculpture Award touring programme in Kendal, bringing exhibitions by winning artists to partner venues across the UK. This is a major development for MTSA and part of our new initiative to share the award with new audiences outside of London
Frances Richardson’s exhibition has been developed over the period of a year as the 15th recipient of the major UK sculpture award.
The exhibition Not even nothing can be free of ghosts presents a group of new works referencing the image of water and water’s metaphorical use to suggest state of mind. The artist is fascinated by the potential of things and places to hold information that is not explicit or measurable by traditional observation.
Not even nothing can be free of ghosts
13 October – 16 December 2018
Cross Lane Projects, Kendal, Cumbria
Here’s a selection of images…
For more information about Standpoint Gallery visit