Garden Futures - Designing with Nature by Wen Bi, MA Fashion Curation alumni
Garden Futures, Designing with Nature
Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany
March 2023 – September 2023
Wen Bi, MA Fashion Curation alumni (September 2017 - December 2018) writes about her experience working on an exhibition
Personal journey to MA Fashion Curation, London College of Fashion
I completed a Bachelors in Art History at the University of Munich, followed by an MA in Curatorial Studies (with a focus on Art History) at the Goethe University of Frankfurt. During my MA, I took a gap year in London. Besides taking English courses at LSE and UCL, I visited lots of exhibitions. It was an accumulation of lots of different amazing visual experiences for me. I followed my professors‘ advice to visit as many exhibitions as I could, to see and to experience then and to train the eye.
In 2015, I visited the “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” exhibition at the V&A Museum, which was curated by Professor Claire Wilcox (CfFC member). I felt so emotional in the exhibition space and realised that this is what I would like to do in the future. After graduating from my MA in Germany, I followed my particular interest in combining contemporary art, fashion and design and took my second MA at the London College of Fashion.
Four years later, looking back, the study of MA in Fashion Curation taught me not only valuable knowledge, but also the practical application of how to make an exhibition, from concept to final realisation.
My current role as a Curatorial Assistant at the Vitra Design Museum, Germany and my day-to-day role in preparing the “Garden Futures” exhibition
The “Garden Futures” at the Vitra Design Museum in Germany will open in March 2023. The show is scheduled to travel for up to five years internationally. The exhibition is designed by the Italian design studio Formafantasma. The curatorial lens of the exhibition is to highlight the garden as a site of experimentation, an incubator of new political, social and sometimes radical ideas.
The exhibition features historical and contemporary garden concepts, as well as the work of artists or landscape architects who conceive of the garden as a place to test concepts of new ecological and social cohesion.
Nicholas Serota, former Director of Tate London, once stated that curating is 20% flair and imagination and 80% administration, collaboration and management. Indeed, there is lots of administration work preparing “Garden Futures”.
I am responsible for exhibition research and searching for potential objects in different museums and archives. My tasks include obtaining permissions and copyright for images, videos, artworks and maintaining accurate credit information. I work with artists, institutions and lenders to facilitate loans. For the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, I am in contact with authors, requesting licenses for articles, finding images for articles and assisting with inventory maintenance for publications.
Museum Plus is the widely used software in the Vitra Design Museum for updating and maintaining the exhibitions and loans database, as well as managing contacts and correspondence.
How the MA learning helped feed into your new role. How you drew on your MA course as part of your work
My MA Fashion Curation Masters project was creating a hypothetical exhibition. MA staff, Judith Clark, Amy de la Haye and Jeffrey Horsley gave me guidance and feedback during the development of the exhibition project. I learnt to write an exhibition proposal, researched previous exhibitions relevant to my topic, considered different types of venues, selected the objects and demonstrated the story that would be told.
The whole process of working on the hypothetical exhibition helped me a lot in developing the conceptual idea of the proposal. At the final stage of planning I used various tools to visualise the exhibition, such as Photoshop and SketchUp, building a model as well as putting small images on the virtual walls, in order to distribute the objects in the exhibition space.
During the MA course, we visited lots of museums and archives to conduct object-based research, fully observing how objects were displayed. For the “Garden Futures” project, I visited different museums and archives to select the potential exhibits, such as the Musée des Trois Pays in Lörrach, Archive of the Ulm School of Design, Weil am Rhein Archives as well as the Textile Collection of Basel School of Design.
I do miss the time I spent in London, visiting amazing exhibitions and reading books in the Library at London College of Fashion. The project at the Vitra Design Museum goes on; I will keep learning and learning by doing.