Museum of Installation: Interview with
Nico de Oliveira & Nicola Oxley (2008)
artdesigncafé - art | 19 February 2011
This interview was previously published in Sculpture, 27(2), March 2008, pages 56-9 with the title "Feeding the spirit of adventure: A conversation with Nicolas de Oliveira and Nicola Oxley".
No research on installation art is complete without a conversation with Nico de Oliveira and Nicola Oxley. As founding directors of London’s Museum of Installation (MoI, 1990–2005), an influential non-profit exhibition space, and authors of the equally influential books, Installation art (1994) and Installation art in the new millennium (2003), their impact is well known. However, their curatorial activities outside of London in Latin America and last summer in northern Greece are not so familiar. “Scarecrow,” which was installed in the Averoff Foundation in Metsovo, Greece, explored ideas of fear in contemporary life and featured works by 61 international contemporary artists. Indoor works were shown in the foundation’s 6,000-square-foot space, while 12 outdoor works were presented in a vineyard adjacent to the ancient St. Nicolas monastery.
While at the Museum of Installation, Nico de Oliveira and Nicola Oxley completed more than 200 projects. Much of their work there was facilitated through artist-led initiatives, and it was often artist-funded, based on artist effort and ingenuity— and fueled by a visionary and entrepreneurial spirit. The Museum of Installation officially closed its doors in 2005 after a 15-year run, but de Oliveira and Oxley have opened a new project space in London, Notice Gallery, which is very much under the MoI concept.
R.J. Preece: What would you say were the key successes with your “Scarecrow” exhibition?
Nico de Oliveira: First, I would say the chance to bring cutting-edge international artworks to a place that has had limited exposure to a contemporary language was most important. Then there was the opportunity to look at its impact and value. After all, the Averoff Foundation, which hosted the show, is located in the remote northern mountains of Greece, close to the Albanian border. It is an astonishing landscape. When delivering the project, we were also very fortunate to work with generous and motivated local partners, especially the directors of the foundation and our Greek co-curator Olga Daniylopoulou.
Nicola Oxley: We were also very pleased to be able to present a number of artworks, including Tomoko Konoike’s animated installation Mimio, Ugo Rondinone’s polyurethane mask, Hew Locke’s coat of arms, and Jon Pylypchuk’s hilarious animal sculptures, as well as works by Tom Hunter, Hans Op de Beeck, Jake & Dinos Chapman, and Mariko Mori. These works helped to provide the highlights for what we think was an intriguing exhibition.
We faced a number of challenges. An important one was to create a balance between works from Greece, including some commissioned works, and existing international works. Additionally, the works in the exhibition were hung adjacent to the foundation’s collection of 19th-century Greek paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Part of our overall remit was to select and re-hang historical works, which is always a difficult and sensitive task, and to redefine the space next to the exhibition.