Curator of the Month: Lorna Hogger, York Art Gallery

Lorna Hogger shares her journey from intern at the Wordsworth Trust to Curator of Fine Art at York Art Gallery.

Name and job title

Lorna Hogger, Curator of Fine Art (maternity cover)

What inspired you to become a curator?

I have always loved art, and find unpicking the stories and histories of paintings fascinating. There is so much that artworks can tell us about our own history, society and culture if we look closely. Art can tell multiple stories depending on the viewer, in playful, critical or thoughtful ways, reflecting both our past and our present. As a curator you get to convey this to other people, to help them find their own way of looking and exploring, and this is what appealed to me and inspired me to become a curator.

What was your first job in the art world – and how did you get to where you are now?

Like most, I did a lot of volunteering before getting my first job, including a short internship at the Wordsworth Trust. My first ‘proper’ job in an art gallery was as a Curatorial Assistant at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. I worked across the wallpaper and textile departments learning and absorbing as much as I could from the specialist curators of each department, and I developed a real love of those collections. From there I worked as an Assistant Registrar for a short while, which gave me a really good grounding in acquisitions, exhibition logistics and collections information, standing me in really good stead for future curatorial roles. I spent a number of years at the National Railway Museum as Assistant Curator looking after the fantastic art and image collections there, before moving to York Art Gallery two years ago.

What has been the highlight of your career – and the biggest challenge?

The highlight of my career has to be joining the team at York Art Gallery to work on the recent redevelopment and opening exhibitions. The redevelopment has enabled the gallery to showcase both its stunning collection and breathe a new lease of life into the building, opening up beautiful light filled spaces. It is something that I had a lot of fun working on, and am very proud to have been part of. Each new exhibition is a challenge in its own way, from researching artworks or themes, through to the practicalities of delivery, but our forthcoming exhibition Flesh is helping me to discover skills I didn’t know I had!

If you had one piece of advice for aspiring curators, what would it be?

Get as much experience as you can, be that volunteering, writing, presenting papers or doing your own research. Speak to others in museums and galleries and learn what you can from them. And persevere; it can be a challenging sector to get into, but it’s worth the effort.

What’s special about working at your gallery?

I am very lucky in that for the last two years I have been able to work in the gallery belonging to the city in which I grew up. York Art Gallery has a really incredible collection ranging from Old Masters to modern British artists to contemporary works, giving it a wonderful breadth and depth. The gallery, and York Museums Trust of which it is part, is innovative and ambitious with a team that is passionate about what they do, and this is evident in the partnerships that it has formed with academic intuitions, community groups and other museums and galleries.

What are your favourite objects in your collection and why?

That’s a really difficult question and it changes depending on what I’m working on at any given time. I love Francesco Guardi’s Il Rio dei Mendicanti. It’s an exquisite view of Venice painted in the 1780s, inspired by the works of Canaletto and Bellotto. I am also a big fan of some of the modern British works like Paul Maitland’s Cheyne Walk in Sunshine. Its depiction of an everyday London street has a wonderful simplicity about it while the composition and use of light is playful and unusual. In our recent exhibition Truth and Memory, British Art of the First World War, I have been drawn to the luminous works of Anna Airy showing the interior of munitions factories, and in our forthcoming exhibition Flesh, I am really excited to be showing work by Jenny Saville.

Away from work, how do you spend your free time?

I am an avid baker. I love all things cake, and take great pride in my efforts at expanding my colleagues’ waistlines.

What is the best exhibition you have been to recently?

I really enjoyed the Cornelia Parker exhibition at the Whitworth last year. I find her work really engaging, in that it encompasses so many different mediums and themes. The exhibition included well known works like Cold Dark Matter, An Exploded View, her exploded shed, and new pieces like War Room, a whole room adorned with the offcuts of remembrance poppy paper reminding the viewer of the loss that each poppy represents, each work making us look at familiar objects with new eyes and imparting them with new meaning.

Flesh is on display at York Art Gallery from September 23 until March 19 2017.

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