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In Wake of Curator Layoff at 500 Capp Street, Artist Liz Magor Cancels Show

500 Capp Street

500 Capp Street.

©HENRIK KAM/COURTESY 500 CAPP STREET

After the San Francisco art space 500 Capp Street laid off its head curator last week, sculptor Liz Magor has decided to terminate her exhibition, titled “TIMESHARE,” before its planned end in October. The show, which opened last month, will now close on Saturday, following a similar decision by New York–based painter Matt Connors to forego a forthcoming exhibition at 500 Capp Street in the absence of curator Bob Linder.

In an email to ARTnews, Magor said, “What I needed was an acknowledgement of the importance of the artist/curator relationship and some assurance that curatorial oversight would be maintained through a comprehensive plan of action. But nothing. Obviously there’s a lack of understanding of the role that context plays in the exhibition of work. … There’s no point exhibiting if an appropriate context isn’t in place.”

Jock Reynolds, 500 Capp Street’s board chair, told ARTnews last week that the decision to lay off Linder was partly informed by a need “to rebalance things” in terms of programming at the art space situated in the former home of the late conceptual artist David Ireland. He said some inside and outside Ireland’s orbit felt that exhibitions by invited artists “were starting to become more dominant” than the work of Ireland himself.

Magor said that the board’s concerns about shows by invited artists contributed to her decision to cancel her show. “Now the context within which I undertook the exhibition is gone,” she said, “and I’m in a situation that could be seen as an unwelcome intrusion. That’s it. I’m out.”

Magor shared a letter she wrote to the board—which includes Reynolds along with Ann Hatch and Carlie Wilmans—to express her decision to withdraw her work from the space. “Not only has the curatorial oversight been removed,” part of the letter reads, “but it is now public knowledge that the Board has been doubtful of the nature of the programming for some time, fearing that the integrity of the David Ireland House has been dominated by the invited artists.”

Reached by ARTnews on Tuesday, Reynolds said that financial considerations also figured in Linder’s layoff. “Bob’s position is no longer tenable and he was the last hired, and we felt he had the capability to go on and do good work elsewhere,” Reynolds said, citing rising costs in San Francisco and other expenses associated with bringing in shows by non-local artists. Reynolds explained that, in addition to exhibiting Ireland’s own work in the context of his former home, the 500 Capp Street Foundation is looking for new ways to involve its surrounding community.

Cait Molloy, the director of 500 Capp Street, told ARTnews that she and the board respect Magor’s choice to close her exhibition. “[The board members] are very aware that curators and artists have relationships and that, if they’ve got a good relationship, they wouldn’t want to jeopardize it,” she said, adding that plans call not to eliminate programming by visiting artists but rather to “pare it back.”

In a group email addressed to “friends” on Tuesday, Jordan Stein, an independent curator based in San Francisco, criticized the foundation for “lazy and irresponsible statements of purpose” released after Linder’s layoff. Stein suggested that community members convene at 500 Capp Street on Saturday, the final day of Magor’s exhibition, “to show support for the type of commercial-free imagination that grows further endangered every afternoon around here. We should be taking better care of each other.”

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