Q&A with... Katy Barron
Katy Barron is Senior Director at Michael Hoppen Gallery, with an established career in curation and art consultancy. We we're incredibly excited when she agreed to take part in our latest Q&A.
F&A: Tell us about yourself and your current role.
KB: I am currently the Senior Director at Michael Hoppen Gallery in London - a gallery that specialises in photography. I have been in the role since March of this year having worked as an independent photo curator and advisor for the previous 8 years.
F&A: Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started in your career? Did you go to university?
KB: I went to the Courtauld Institute of Art (part of the University of London) and Oxford University - studying the History of Art and focussing on early collecting. I began working as a curatorial assistant at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff and then went on to The Royal Collection, where I was Assistant Curator of Painting, specialising in French painting. I changed direction after nearly a decade in that role and began working at Purdy Hicks - a contemporary art gallery in London where I focussed on building up my knowledge of photography and their stable of photographic artists. I curated a major museum touring exhibition whilst I was at the gallery and focussed on writing about photography, curating exhibitions and growing my experience and knowledge of photography in all its forms.
F&A: How has your passion for photography influenced your career?
KB: I have had quite an unusual career in that most curators of painting never consider changing field, however I had always had a love of photography and realised that it was an area that i wanted to specialise in. I therefore left a ‘job for life’ in order to learn about fine art photography and become an expert in that field.
F&A: You've juggled working as a curator for museums and art galleries, how do the two differ?
KB: The two differ in many interesting ways. There is a great deal of freedom working in a museum in that you are not driven by financial targets and can take time to research ideas. However things move at a glacial pace and there is huge competition for resources. The commercial world can be exciting but there are often compromises to be made as the bills have to be paid! I very much enjoy working within in both fields and have tried to structure my career so that I don’t have to choose between the two - so I am currently curating a show about the refugee experience in the UK for a museum in 2019 whilst working at Michael Hoppen.
F&A: You've worked as a freelance art advisor, what did the role involve?
KB: The role involved helping collectors acquire photographs - they were doing this for many reasons, such as pleasure, long-term investment, or decoration. This meant knowing what was going on in the photography world, guiding them towards certain works, helping them negotiate purchases, advising them against purchases - a key part of the role, and ensuring that works are correctly presented and looked after.
F&A: Do you have any advice for young people today trying to get into the arts sector?
KB: Think about it very carefully as many of the roles in the visual arts sector are extremely hard to obtain and very badly paid! Many roles do not necessarily involve the opportunity to come into direct contact with art and artists and it is crucial to decide if this is important to you as that could influence your choices. I think it helps if you can become a specialist in a particular field or skill that you love and gain as much exposure as you can in that area be that museum education or arts pr.
F&A: What does creativity mean to you?
KB: Creativity is something about finding a distinctive voice that rises above the rest. It is rare and wonderful when you come across it. I am not a creative (although there is a creative element to curating and writing that I really enjoy) but have the huge pleasure of working with creatives and I am always looking for new artists that give me shivers down my spine. This happens very rarely and I see a lot of work that is lovely or interesting but ultimately derivative.
Images taken from Katy Barron's Instagram @kbarronphotos