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500 Capp Street Lays Off Curator, Artist Cancels Exhibition

The interior of 500 Capp Street.

COURTESY 500 CAPP STREET

The idiosyncratic San Francisco art space 500 Capp Street—the former home of conceptual artist David Ireland and the site of exhibitions involving other artists since his death in 2009—has laid off its head curator, Bob Linder, in a change of direction that a memo from its board described as an effort “to re-balance 500 Capp Street future exhibitions and public programs with an enhanced education program that will offer aspiring students, young artist [sic], and art historians enhanced opportunities to learn more about curatorial and artist practice.”

The sudden loss of Linder has already led one artist, the New York–based painter Matt Connors, to cancel his forthcoming show at the space, raising questions about the future of an exhibition program for which art by a notable cast (including Michael E. Smith, Mike Kelley, and many others) had been integrated into the setting of Ireland’s home—itself an artwork of sorts.

Linder, who declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement he had signed, was let go after a board meeting this week. On Thursday, after posting the news on Instagram with word that his exhibition had been canceled, Connors was contacted by 500 Capp Street with a request to continue with the show, which had been scheduled for October, in Linders’s absence. “Artists always have this problem where there are administrative people who are so far out of touch from actual artists,” Connors told ARTnews. “I just can’t imagine that someone would think I would continue to do the show.”

Connors was later contacted on Friday morning by Jock Reynolds, 500 Capp Street’s recently appointed board chair (and just-retired director of the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut), who asked him to continue with the show. Connors said no.

Reached by ARTnews, Reynolds said 500 Capp Street is committed to funding exhibitions that had been planned for the rest of this year and into February 2020—and would like to maintain some engagement with outside artists thereafter. But the curatorial program as it has existed will be scaled back. “We want to continue and have no attention of discontinuing inviting visiting artists,” Reynolds said, “but frankly the amount of money that was being spent had reached the limit. The quality of shows has been good, but, economically, we had to make a decision. And we think it’s in keeping with David’s wishes.”

Part of the decision, Reynolds said, owes to the response to recent exhibitions. “We’ve had some very nice shows, but at the same time, we talked to a lot of people who knew David, both young and old, and some of them started to tell us something we had begun to feel ourselves: that the invited-artist exhibitions were starting to become more dominant and people were missing seeing David’s work. So we thought we needed to rebalance things.”

Solo exhibitions by Liz Magor and Nina Canell are now on view at 500 Capp Street, with future shows scheduled for Kitty Krauss and B. Wurtz. (Connors’s cancelled show was supposed to have opened October 26.)

As of Friday afternoon, Wurtz said he had not been contacted by 500 Capp Street about his show, slated for December 7 through February 1, 2020. About the layoff of Linder, Wurtz said, “It’s very sad. It seemed so in keeping with the spirit of David Ireland to keep the place alive with a good curator who would do shows appropriate to his vision. That’s why everything was picked, and it’s fantastic to keep it alive with current artists.”

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