by Amber Spicer
In summer 2015, I was an intern at the Kadist Art Foundation under the supervision of Director of Collections Devon Bella. Kadist Art Foundation is a non-profit collecting institution located in San Francisco’s Mission District that focuses on contemporary art. The first branch opened in Paris in 2006, and the San Francisco location was added in 2011.
Kadist’s mission is to “encourage the engagement of artists, often represented in its collection, with the important issues of today to promote their role as cultural agents. Kadist’s collections and productions reflect the global scope of contemporary art, and its programs develop collaborations with like-minded artists, curators and many art organizations around the world.”
An example of Kadist’s innovative projects was called If There Ever Was: An Exhibition of Extinct and Impossible Smells in which guest curator Robert Blackson worked with fragrance designers to create an exhibition of smells that have impacted contemporary culture such as “the atomic blast at Hiroshima” and “the scent of communism.”
My main projects related to collections management. I had the opportunity to assist with the adaptation of a new collections database and accession numbering system. Kadist’s collection is made up of contemporary art mainly from California, Latin America, and Asia, with artworks of all mediums. My first task was to organize the museum’s accession agreements, images, invoices, and certificates of authenticity. I also helped Devon complete condition reporting, beginning with an exhibition called Camera of Wonders that will travel to Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City. Camera of Wonders is a photography exhibition that opened along side the sixteenth Bienal de Fotographia. I also assisted with condition reporting for United States of Latin America, an exhibition hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
The most challenging piece to condition report, Pablo Accinelli’s Onde quer voce esteja (Wherever you may be), 2011, which consisted of almost 100 separate pieces of marker on paper.
In addition to Collections Management work, I conducted research on the topic of how to improve the museum experience for people who are blind or have low vision. Often times, people with visual impairments do not have the luxury of walking into a museum at any time; instead, most programming for people who are blind or visually impaired occurs at limited times scheduled by the museum, or when arranged in advance by the visitor. I researched case studies of museums and galleries who have successfully integrated programming and exhibitions for visitors with all levels of sight.
One of the most impressive examples that I came across was the Victoria and Albert Museum’s FuturePlan. As part of this plan, a new Disability and Access Officer was hired, and he has done amazing work auditing the museum’s practices and increasing accessibility inside the museum. Kadist hopes use this research and work with local artists to reinterpret artwork in its permanent collection in a way that will be enjoyable for both sighted and non-sighted guests.
An interesting aspect of Kadist is its focus on unique programming. In this area, one of the most exciting experiences I had was working with artist in residence Erick Beltran. Kadist’s residencies give artists the opportunity to create pieces that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Erick Beltran creates conceptual diagrams, and his residency involves carving the diagrams into a tree. I travelled with Erick, Devon, and Pete to Marshall, CA to a facility where discarded trees are collected and repurposed. Our task was to help select a tree for his residency. For the opening of his exhibition The Fallen Tree, Erick hosted a dinner that was a “culinary contextualization” of his artwork, which included the serving of raw shrimp to disgust guests as well as a palm reading style reading of a liver that the artist later cooked and served.
I learned a lot from my internship at Kadist, and constantly thought back to my courses in the Museum Studies program at USF. It was a wonderful experience to put what I’ve learned in class into action. I can’t wait to see what Kadist accomplishes next!