Birnbaum, Daniel, Artforum International
In the late '70s Iwona Blazwick, who was trained as an artist, had an epiphany: "I found myself overwhelmed by what I was looking at." She gave up her career making art and decided instead to attend full time to the work of others. With an academic background in art history, aesthetics, and English literature, she's since divided her time between writing, teaching, curating, and editing.
When Blazwick joined the Tate in 1997 (she was named head of exhibitions and displays in 1998), she entered the museum world after four years at Phaidon Press, where she established a new division for contemporary art-book publishing. Given her focus on contemporary practices, is she intimidated by the mandate of installing a collection that reaches back an entire century? Actually, this challenge seems to excite her most: "Indeed, one of the most pressing concerns was to find a way out of presenting the collection according to the strictly linear organization that ignores wider contextual influences."
As head of exhibitions, it will fall to Blazwick to oversee the entire art program and, together with director Lars Nittve, to work closely with other curators. It's by no means the first time she has been involved in the grind of putting shows together. From 1987 to 1993, Blazwick was director of exhibitions at the London ICA, where, among other installations, she exhibited Gerhard Richter's "October" series alongside Peter Halley's cellular paintings. She also produced shows dealing with Situationism and the Independent Group, as well as exhibitions of a number of women artists who emerged in the '80s, including Katharina Fritsch, Jenny Hoizer, Barbara Kruger, and Rosemarie Trockel. …