Magazine article Artforum International

Emma Dexter

Magazine article Artforum International

Emma Dexter

Article excerpt

How does Emma Dexter (director of exhibitions at London's Institute of Contemporary Art from 1992 to last year) fit into Tate Modern's radical plans? In appointing Dexter to work alongside Iwona Blazwick, Frances Morris, and Donna De Salvo, Lars Nittve has recruited a curator with distinctive tastes and plenty of experience pushing the exhibiting envelope.

Even as an M.Phil. student at the Courtauld Institute of Art, Dexter aimed straight for a subject--the often bizarre painted-wood sculptures of the Spanish Baroque--that took her well beyond safe high-art confines. From there, her 1985-87 appointment as assistant curator of fine art at Stoke-on-Trent's City Museum and Art Gallery enabled Dexter to begin putting curatorial ideas into practice; her show "Palaces of Culture" (an interrogation of the politics of display featuring site-specific work by Mark Wallinger, Lubaina Himid, and others) caused institutional ructions but attracted national coverage. Next, Dexter plunged into what she labels a "shocking" learning curve: solo-piloting London's "scarily large" Chisenhale Gallery from 1987 to 1990. While juggling everything from fundraising to dishwashing, Dexter initiated major capital improvements and curated a memorable series of solo installations that culminated in Rachel Whiteread's first major work, Ghost, 1990. Dexter's enthusiastic mid-'90s promotion of Turner Prize winner Steve McQueen also demonstrates her eye for emerging talent--headhunting will definitely feature among her Tate Modern duties. …

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