The position of curator-at-large has been newly created at the Stedelijk
to energize the institution with a diversity of ideas, adding alternative perspectives for the exhibition program, collection and research and public program. In contrast to a guest curator, the curators-at-large commit to the museum for a longer period of time (initially two years) and are able to initiate their own projects, while also addressing the museums structures and conceptual frame. The appointment of Mutumba and Szymczyk forms part of the consistent strategy of the Stedelijk to question its own established knowledge and engage with a multiplicity of narratives that transcend Western European modernism, and thus examine the museums own foundations.
The curators-at-large are involved with the museums team on several levels. In their new roles, Mutumba and Szymczyk intervene in the development of upcoming exhibitions and collection presentations, inspire new lines in the research program of the Stedelijk, and initiate their own concepts of exhibitions, publications, and public programs. From their respective vantage points, they reflect and research the collection and the position of the museum vis-à-vis current regional and global contexts.
The Stedelijk chose two curators and researchers who, in their different practices, have developed strong views on globalization, decolonization, and the relevance of art institutions in this context. Yvette Mutumba is an editor, curator, and educator, and stands for new perspectives in the art world. As a curator at the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt, Mutumba developed new exhibition formats and introduced a far broader perspective on contemporary art from Africa and its global diaspora as the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the art magazines Contemporary And (C&) and Contemporary And América Latina (C&AL). Adam Szymczyk is a curator with a powerful vision of rethinking exhibition formats and institutions. He shaped the profile of Kunsthalle Basel during his ten-year tenure as director and chief curator of the institution, and orchestrated, as artistic director, a much-discussed move of documenta 14 to Athens, curating with a large team an exhibition that embraced differences and steered away from the Western art world.
Rein Wolfs, director of the Stedelijk, says: Yvette Mutumba and Adam Szymczyk will be key figures in reshaping the Stedelijk into a different kind of museum, one that is equipped to respond to a changed world. Today, an international museum of modern and contemporary art and design needs to reflect critically on its position in the new global perspective. Yvette and Adam will be able to show our staff and myself other ways of thinking about a future Stedelijk.
Yvette Mutumba: In this current moment, which ferociously amplifies the uncertainty, pain, and disruption caused by systemic racism and ignorance, many cultural institutions in Europe and the United States are aligning themselves in solidarity with the cause. This can only be the beginning of the work that needed to be done already many decades ago. The Stedelijk Museum decided to take the first steps in that direction. I look forward to working with Rein Wolfs and his team, by bringing in new perspectives and impulses.
Adam Szymczyk: I am both humbled and excited by the prospect of working with the team of the Stedelijkthe museum that looks to a splendid history of avant-garde art and experimental exhibition concepts. And yet, this history is not an immutable monument: on the contrary, it obliges us to question the status quo. The intention here is to take the museum for a walk, in search of identities yet to emerge, and materialize this experience in exhibitions and programs.
Yvette Mutumba is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the art magazines Contemporary And (C&) and Contemporary And América Latina (C&AL). She currently also lectures at the Institute of Art in Context, University of Arts, Berlin. Mutumba was part of the curatorial team of the 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2018) and visiting professor for Global Discourses at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne (20172018). From 2012 to 2016 she worked at the Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt, where she co-curated the exhibitions Foreign Exchange (or the stories you wouldnt tell a stranger) (20142015), El Hadji Sy: Paintings, Performance, Politics (2015), and A Labour of Love (20152016; Johannesburg Art Gallery, 2017). The latter was nominated for the 2016 Global Fine Arts Award. Yvette Mutumba studied Art History at Freie Universität Berlin and holds a PhD from Birkbeck, University of London.
Adam Szymczyk is a curator and author based in Basel and Zurich. He was the artistic director of documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel between 2013 and 2017. He studied art history at the University of Warsaw and co-founded the Foksal Gallery Foundation in that city in 1997. Adam Szymczyk then worked as the director of Kunsthalle Basel from 2003 to 2014. In 2008 he co-curated with Elena Filipovic the 5th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, When Things Cast No Shadow. Szymczyk is a member of the Board of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and member of the Advisory Committee of Kontakt (The Art Collection of Erste Group and ERSTE Foundation) in Vienna, where he also holds a seminar, Undoing Landscape, as guest lecturer at the Akademie der bildenden Künste. In 2011 he received the Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement at the Menil Foundation in Houston.