Back Chat #6

Charlie Levine

August 14, 2018

Charlie Levine is an Art Director, Curator, Consultant, Fundraiser and Mentor. She has over 10 years experience of working in galleries, including TROVE and mac birmingham, and was also an Officer at Arts Council England and Arts Manager for the London Borough of Camden. Having lectured extensively on Professional Development and Curatorial module, Charlie’s specialisms include creating and bringing together communities around art, as well as developing opportunities for early career artists.

24/07/2018, 11:08 - BTF:

Hullo charlie!

24/07/2018, 11:08 - BTF:

Welcome to our little Back Chat 😊

24/07/2018, 11:08 - BTF:

Thanks so much for doing this. Let me know when you are ready to roll and I shall send over the first question… 👍👍👍

24/07/2018, 11:19 - Charlie Levine:

Morning!! How are you? And great! I’m ready to rock and roll when you are.

24/07/2018, 11:22 - BTF:

Im very well thanks! Enjoying this sunshine and working with the window wide open ☀😌

4/07/2018, 11:22 - Charlie Levine:

Sames!!! ☀☀☀

24/07/2018, 11:23 - BTF:

Lets get this party started – can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What do you do for a living, on the side, and for fun?

24/07/2018, 11:30 - Charlie Levine:

I am lucky that all three link for me. I am a contemporary art curator, arts manager, lecturer and creative consultant and get to work on multiple projects at a time with some incredible creative industry professionals, who also become friends through the process. That’s how it links into things I do on the side and for fun! I get to talk about art, go look at and watch art, hang out with amazing arty people, and then find ways to realise ideas and projects that are inspired by all those things. It’s a dream job, really!

24/07/2018, 12:01 - BTF:


24/07/2018, 12:01 - BTF:

It certainly sounds like it! Can you give us an idea of the kind of people you work with?

24/07/2018, 13:08 - Charlie Levine:

💫 I can! it’s a total mix of artists, art writers, architects, other creative consultants and producers. ✨To name a few – I had drinks last night with the wonderful Ladies of the Press*, who are amazing print performance artists, who I met in 2015 when I commissioned them for a project called Camden50.

✨I just Skyped with the wonderful artist Caitlin Griffiths who has been a collaborator, friend and life coach of mine for years! We worked with another amazing artist, Elly Clarke, who I recently taught with at Royal Central School of Art and Design.

✨I am working on a new project, SqW:Lab with a wonderful group of people from all over the world, including artists Vishwa Shroff, John Ros, Gustavo Ferro and Tash Kahn, architect Katsushi Goto, and art writer Rosie Van Mierlo. I have worked with all of this team before in various ways from curating their exhibitions to asking them to travel the world with me on a recent travel grant.

✨ Then there’s those I met on that travel grant who I am developing projects with including Daniel Murgel, Thelma Vilas Boas, Flora Leite and João Loureiro from Brazil. And Teja Gavanka, Amshu Chukki, Subrat Kumar Behera from Mumbai.

✨I studied photography and have always loved the medium, especially the work of Jo Gane, Liz Hingley, Matthew Andrew and Minnie Weisz who I have had the pleasure of working with many times. Minnie offered me my first curating opportunity in London!

✨And Sluice__, who I have worked with for several years in London and Brooklyn, led by Karl England, a great artist who sees Sluice__ as his art practice.

✨I met Laurie Nouchka at Sluice__2013 who I then commissioned in two of her guises (as Walls on Walls and as sports wear designer) while working at Camden Council.

✨Then there’s the creative professionals who inspire me and are great sound boards, Victoria Patrick, Lucy Jeffries from Quiet Down There, Samina Zahir, Ali Hillman, and Chryssi Tzanetou.

And and and…this list could go on and on! ✨

24/07/2018, 15:47 - BTF:

Wowzers trousers! What a list! Any chance you could pick a handful of these artists and send through some links to their work / pictures of their stuff?

24/07/2018, 15:51 - Charlie Levine:

Haha! Yes…

24/07/2018, 16:01 - Charlie Levine: 💖💜💖

24/07/2018, 16:01 - Charlie Levine: 🌸🌺🌸

24/07/2018, 16:02 - Charlie Levine: ◻▫◻

24/07/2018, 16:03 - Charlie Levine: 📸🚬🚶🏻‍♀

24/07/2018, 16:05 - Charlie Levine: 🦔📷👨‍👩‍👧‍👦

24/07/2018, 16:06 - Charlie Levine: 🧘‍♀🌇✈

24/07/2018, 16:09 - Charlie Levine: 🍦🍨🍖

24/07/2018, 16:36 - BTF:


24/07/2018, 16:37 - BTF:

This might be hard to answer given the amazing array of incredible artists you are working with – but is there a project you are working on at the moment that you think is particularly important? Or that you find especially inspiring?

24/07/2018, 16:37 - BTF:

(Excellent use of emojis btw)

24/07/2018, 16:37 - BTF:


24/07/2018, 16:41 - Charlie Levine:

💁‍♀ thanks!

24/07/2018, 17:01 - Charlie Levine:

And that is hard! I could talk about SqW:Lab, a new project I’m working on in Mumbai….

24/07/2018, 17:03 - Charlie Levine: 🇮🇳👨‍🎨👩‍💻

24/07/2018, 17:04 - Charlie Levine:

But think I’d like to tell you about Women Constructed, an exhibition I am curating at Swiss Cottage Gallery this September as part of Camden Council’s 2018 Cultural programme, Camden Vox.

24/07/2018, 17:05 - Charlie Levine: 👩‍🎨💙⬛

24/07/2018, 17:15 - Charlie Levine:

The reason for choosing it is because it’s a topic that’s very close to my heart – making the creative industries more representative and diverse, and highlighting stories hidden in a misogynist western written history.

This exhibition began as wanting to show a selection of the women artists in the public Camden Art Collection, that the council actively collected between the mid 60s to the late 70s. Most of the artists in the collection have a connection to the London borough, with many of the artists mimicking styles and techniques.

The reason to highlight women, firstly because I am a feminist and want to make sure women’s stories are being heard, secondly as the show was part of Camden Vox, which is a programme commemorating the 100th anniversary of the representation of the people’s act (when some women in the UK were given the vote).

I presented Swiss Cottage Gallery’s Manager, Rosie Van Mierlo, with three potential exhibitions and we decided on one that showcased works representative of the abstract expressionists – a very masculine American regarded genre in the 60/70s.

The show comprises of 9 artists, Phillippa James, Valerie Thornton, Susan Alix, Tess Jaray, Charlotte Jennings, Prunella Clough, Jeannie Masoero, Edwina Leapman and Linda Heywood.

24/07/2018, 17:56 - BTF:

This is absolutely wonderful. I love how you’ve taken a stereotypically ‘masculine’ movement and created an exhibition to completely re-assess it. It reminds me a little of the sudden reappraisal of leonora carrington (a surrealist). Lots of books (both biography and fiction) out about her at the mo!

24/07/2018, 17:57 - Joe:

(And I will do my best to be at the private view, though it is a thursday so I may struggle being in norwich and all).

24/07/2018, 17:57 - BTF:

(Hopefully everyone reading this will be there now though!)

24/07/2018, 17:58 - BTF:

Speaking of other artists past and present – is there any arts, social or charitable project, aside from your own, that you’ved been particularly moved by / enthused by recently?

24/07/2018, 17:59 - Charlie Levine:

Yes! Love Carrington’s work.

24/07/2018, 17:59 - Charlie Levine:

(And no worries – come if you can!!)

24/07/2018, 18:16 - Charlie Levine:

Well, when you mentioned Carrington I also thought of the wonderful Hilma af Klint, she has a great story too and I loved her mystical paintings.

Other Arts projects and people I’m inspired by, there’s loads!

✨ Janet Cardiff is a wonderful artist who I think makes wonderful sound and film works (with George Bures Miller), every time I encounter her work it takes me literally and figuratively to new places and old memories, love it!

✨Theastre Gates is a wonderful artist making really socially engaged work in a very accessible, new way.

✨ Triple Candie is a unique artistic / curatorial project in the US who I find very inspiring. They create exhibitions by artists, recreating works and imagining future works as well as exhibiting photocopies of works from books and publicising the exhibitions as solo shows…if that makes sense? They’re great!

✨Palais de Tokyo in Paris is such an incredible space with a brilliant programme, it’s always great to just turn up and see what’s on there. A few years ago I saw a great show there about Diorama’s that’s really stuck with me.

✨ The Widget Art Gallery is a great project too! Download it onto your computer or mobile and they (Chiara Passa) curates a constantly changing piece of digital art within the digital gallery.

✨ I also really like the Using Walls, Floors, and Ceilings programme at the Jewish Museum, NYC. I love artists and curators who use alternative spaces, work site responsively and play with the conventions of an exhibition, and this programme encourages that play.

Again, I could go on and on…

24/07/2018, 18:22 - Charlie Levine:


24/07/2018, 18:24 - Charlie Levine:

24/07/2018, 18:26 - Charlie Levine:

25/07/2018, 10:41 - BTF:

Sorry for the slow reply – we were having a browse of all your links. Utterly brilliant!

25/07/2018, 10:42 - BTF:

We really like the playfulness of the wall and ceilings work too – completely reimagines what an exhibition space, and an exhibition, can be.

25/07/2018, 10:43 - BTF:

Now – not to put a downer on all this glorious art – what do you think is the biggest creative challenge to you, your job, or the organisations you work for? 😬😬😬

25/07/2018, 10:51 - Charlie Levine:

Morning! No worries, pleased you like the projects too. 😊

25/07/2018, 11:07 - Charlie Levine:

Creative challenges aren’t a downer, quite often ‘the problem is the solution’ and as Creative thinkers it’s often (not always) good for practices to be challenged. So in terms of societal changes (Brexit in particular) artists can narrate emotions and talk about issues in ways that the press can’t. Look at the incredible banners from the Trump March the other week, and the amazing history of political posters and campaigns. I saw a great show earlier this year at the Whitney in NYC ‘an incomplete history of protest’ and it was great!

But the real challenges I personally feel right now for the creative industries in particular are; financial, just the lack of publicly accessible funds and also the lack of private support and philanthropy in the UK, also the complex nature of the commercial art world vs grass routes vs long standing / regularly funded institutions; the diminishing importance of Arts educations in schools, a real horror story that young people aren’t getting access to the Arts at school; the lack of energetic cultural criticism; and the lack of diversity in arts management positions.

But all four are pushing for alternative ways to address the problems, for example Sluice__ magazine has recently done a great project selling odd bits of their grit cover to help pay for the publication to get printed – a nice example of alternative crowd sourcing. There are organisations like Quiet Down There delivering challenging and thought provoking workshops and projects for young people and showing alternative access routes into creative practices. The White Pube and people like Morgan Quaintance are reinventing art criticism for today, and people are more openly talking about and creating avenues for diverse leaders – Samina Zahir is a big inspiration to me on this particular talking point.

25/07/2018, 11:08 - Charlie Levine:


25/07/2018, 11:10 - Charlie Levine:

*their front cover

25/07/2018, 14:53 - BTF:

Is it wrong that, despite the serious nature of all this, we chuckled at The White Pube? 😅

25/07/2018, 14:53 - BTF:

The point about lack of energetic cultural criticism is an interesting one – can you elaborate on that a bit?

25/07/2018, 14:53 - Charlie Levine:

Not at all! That’s their point!!

25/07/2018, 15:03 - Charlie Levine:

For me cultural criticism has shifted, the ones who wrote about, disected, interpreted and challenged art exhibitions, performances, interventions etc were critics in a traditional sense. And in the last few years critics have become curators and vice versa, and this criticism has changed. It is now an extension of art projects, a sister rather than a critical friend. It’s also the voice of the critic i have issue with, it’s often (not all the time but definitely in main stream art criticism) white male voices. Journals like The Pool, ROOT-ed, AZ Magazine and Gal Dem are really changing things in that area.

25/07/2018, 15:19 - Charlie Levine:

Here’s a couple of extracts from Irene Calderoni’s article ‘Creating Shows: Some notes on exhibition aesthetics at the end of the sixties’ that I hope help with my point… 🤓

25/07/2018, 15:20 - Charlie Levine:

25/07/2018, 15:21 - Charlie Levine:

25/07/2018, 16:32 - BTF:


25/07/2018, 16:33 - BTF:

Underlined books? You are our kind of person!

25/07/2018, 16:35 - BTF:

What an exciting concept. I’ve not come across this before – it really opens up possibilities… 🤩

25/07/2018, 16:36 - BTF:

Ok – last question on this sweltering hot day (thanks for your patience!) – whats the best advice you’ve ever been given? (Not counting what you’ve underlined in pencil 😉)

25/07/2018, 17:21 - Charlie Levine:

Oh my god, I underline books all the time, make notes in them, fold corners, it’s important they become personal objects! 📄📓📚📖🖊

25/07/2018, 17:22 - Charlie Levine:

And pleased you’re inspired! 💫 I did a project based a little on the exhibition being the story / narrative a whole back, take a look…

25/07/2018, 17:22 - Charlie Levine:

25/07/2018, 17:26 - Charlie Levine:

Yes, it’s quite hot! ☀☀☀ and pleasure – this has been fun! What’s the best advice I’ve ever been given? And not underlined from a book….? 🤔 it would have to be some words of wisdom and of whimsy from Dad, ‘make the memories.’

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