Maria Fidel Regueros is the curator and part owner of ROOM, a small, but significant exhibition space in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Maria kindly took the time to tell us a little about what sets ROOM apart from other exhibition spaces, as well as what her day job, curating the space, entails.
Please tell us what your official (or unofficial) job title is:
Co-founder & Curator of ROOM. I would like to point out here that Andrew Wessels an award winning TV/Film Director & Editor is the other half of ROOM’s vision and success.
Our unofficial titles are everything in between…
What and where did you study?
My postgrad degree is in Heritage Studies: Presentation and Representation of History with a focus on Museums at Wits University.
What characteristics and skills does it take to do what you do?
In terms of characteristics I would say that stubbornness, patience, being open-minded and inquisitive are fundamental characteristics, in terms of skills…well that takes time and you find yourself becoming a smith of sorts, lawyer, doctor, writer etc and everything in between…but most important is the skill of improvisation.
What do you love most about being a curator?
The interaction with artists is the most fulfilling part as well as finding ways and means of changing the cycle of presentation of artworks slightly.
How did Room come into being?
ROOM began as an idea 8 years ago, while I was in Cape Town and talking to Jonathan Garnham (Blank Projects) about the idea of more independent platforms for visual, plastic and public art. Thereafter I left the city and became involved with other projects in Johannesburg, and it was only in 2011 that we (the ROOM team) were in a position to start something, perhaps a bit late but better than not at all.
Can you tell us how Room differs from a conventional gallery:
I guess the most obvious difference is the fact that ROOM in its programming not only provides a platform to showcase emerging artists but also has components that are more discursive in nature, i.e. its informal platforms under the auspices of the CARPET SERIES and THE ARTIST WALKABOUTS. Also we are showcasing the work of not only “artists” per se but urbanists, architects, designers. Galleries too tend to represent artists whereas ROOM does not really and supports the independence of artists. I guess another difference may be that ROOM also showcases project based exhibitions.
Room is described as a project space, with a focus on increasing awareness around creative production. Can you please elaborate on this a little:
As I have mentioned, ROOM is also a discursive platform as well as a platform that focuses beyond the strict scope of the plastic and visual arts. What is important for ROOM and its programming is the presentation of artistic endeavour that looks at the overlaps in fields.
When working with different artists on projects for Room, what is your role and how do you approach each project?
Each project presented at ROOM is distinctly different from the other and requires each one of us to be as adaptive as possible. What is very important is that the artist feels in control of the presentation and knows that the ROOM team is there to support the integrity of the work by the way the exhibition is curated.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A librarian and a fashion designer …I liked filling out pieces of paper and pretending I was cataloguing things. And then when I was a teenager I was really fascinated by a family friend who was a fashion designer and so I wanted to be like her…I even presented her with illustrations of designs I had come up with…
Do you have any advice to those who might consider a career in curating?
DO IT!!!!!!! It is super stimulating but also requires a lot of patience and interpersonal skills, be prepared to be everything under the sun and more. Also know that it is not a money making profession.
What piece of art is currently at the top of your wish list?
I don’t have a favourite all the names below should be seen as being one top wish list : Ernest Mancoba, Johannes Phokela, Henry Moore, Wim Botha, Michael McGarry, Nicholas Hlobo, Nadine Hutton, Cheri Samba, Samuel Fosso, Willem Boshoff, Yinka Shonibare, Karl Gietl, Santu Mofokeng, Gellel Gasteli, El Anatsui…and the list goes on and on and on…
Find out more about ROOM here, or visit the space at #3, 70 Juta Precinct, Juta Street, Braamfontein.