Glasgow-based curator and writer Richard Birkett – who has previously held roles at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London and Artists Space in New York – has taken up the position to develop and deliver Glasgow International’s next festival in June 2024.
Taking place over 18 days, Scotland’s leading biennial festival of contemporary visual arts showcases the city’s outstanding strengths and reputation as a vibrant and distinctive centre for contemporary art, artistic production and creative talent. A unique event in the European cultural calendar, the festival combines the characteristics of a visual arts biennial with an open submission model for artists and curators based in the city.
As Festival Director Richard Birkett will lead a review of the creative and strategic direction, artistic vision and operational delivery of Glasgow International, working in partnership with the local, national and international arts community, stakeholders and other partners. This review will also build on critical reflections on Glasgow International’s commitments towards anti-racism, structural and artistic equity, and drive positive and embedded change. The process will enable a reshaping of the festival to reflect changing artistic contexts, and renewed ambitions to be fulfilled by commissioning, supporting and presenting a rich, varied and responsive programme of exhibitions and activities.
Commenting on his role as Glasgow International Festival Director, Richard said: “As a resident of the city since 2019, and a frequent visitor for many years before, Glasgow and its art scene have always been important touchstones for me. I’m hugely excited to take on the role of Director of Glasgow International, and to have the opportunity to learn from and work with the incredible arts organisations, artists and organisers in the city to develop the festival.
“From its beginnings nearly twenty years ago, the strength of GI has lain in the depth and integrity of artistic, curatorial and community work occurring in Glasgow, and its reciprocity with discourse and practice occurring elsewhere. It is around an ethos of responsiveness, intersectionality, and collective care that I hope GI can reshape itself. I’m looking forward, with the fantastic GI team and others, to building a 2024 festival that centres collaboration and multiple perspectives at the juncture between the local and the global.”
Having studied as an artist and both exhibited at and run artist-led spaces in London in the mid-2000s, Richard has since developed an extensive practice as a curator and organiser of arts events. As Chief Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London from 2017 and 2020, he led an interdisciplinary programme of exhibitions, performances, film, talks and learning. He curated a number of significant exhibitions at the ICA such as Forensic Architecture, Counter Investigations (Turner Prize nominated, 2018), Metahaven, EURASIA (2019), and Cameron Rowland, 3 & 4 Will. IV c. 73 (2020), as well as an acclaimed retrospective of Julie Becker. He co-organised an ambitious exhibition and event series dedicated to the work of Kathy Acker, and commissioned a range of new performances for the ICA theatre.
Prior to this, as Curator at Artists Space in New York from 2010 to 2016, Richard curated an impressive exhibition programme working with artists such as Julie Ault, Bernadette Corporation, Lukas Duwenhögger, Aaron Flint Jamison, Laura Poitras and Hito Steyerl. He co-founded Artists Space Books & Talks, a unique space for talks, collective learning, performances and screenings.
Richard Birkett has also curated exhibition projects at international institutions including MoMA PS1 and White Columns in New York, mumok in Vienna, Yale Union in Portland, and the National Gallery of Kosovo, Prishtina.
Richard Birkett was a jury member for the 2020 Turner Prize, which resulted in the award of ten artist bursaries during the first year of the COVID pandemic. Regularly serving as a visiting lecturer and speaker on art and curatorial programmes, he has taught at colleges and universities in Scotland, England, Europe and the US. He is the author of the forthcoming book Donald Rodney: Autoicon (Afterall, 2023), and has published widely on contemporary art, co-editing publications Cosey Complex (2012), Bernadette Corporation: 2000 Wasted Years (2013), and Tell It To My Heart – Collected by Julie Ault (2015). Richard has also served on the Board of the New York-based activist organisation Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.) since 2016.
Chair of Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council Convenor for Culture, Sport and International Relations, Bailie Annette Christie said: “The very considerable experience in organising important international visual arts events that Richard brings to the role of Festival Director, together with his extensive knowledge of established and emerging names in contemporary arts worldwide, will be invaluable to Glasgow International. His expertise, talent and flair will, I am sure, ensure the 2024 event meets its ambitions and is a major success, attracting audiences from near and far and enriching the lives of the people of Glasgow and its visitors.”
Creative Scotland Executive Director of Arts, Communities and Inclusion, Dana MacLeod, said: “Congratulations to Richard on his appointment as Director of Glasgow International. Richard has an excellent experience of supporting artists and building strong local, national and international relationships. His appointment comes at an important point in the festival’s development and a prime moment to support the city’s art community post pandemic. We look forward to both the international and inclusive vision Richard will undoubtedly bring.”