Keith Whittle is a British academic, art advisor and curator, who also writes on modern and contemporary art.
As a curator, he works collaboratively with institutions and galleries to deepen exchanges with artists internationally. He is currently, director of Fountain and formally advisor and associate curator at White Rainbow an art gallery in London specialising in contemporary art from Japan, whose recent programme include solo exhibitions and projects by leading contemporary Japanese artists Chikako Yamashiro, Chim↑Pom, Aki Sasamoto, Taro Izumi, Meiro Koizumi and Mari Katayama.
As a programme director and arts producer, he has organised numerous monographic and thematic exhibitions. In keeping with his interests in modern and contemporary art from South East Asia, his recent activities have brought attention to emerging and under-recognised artists or little-explored themes and practices from the region.
He is a lecturer at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London and Tokyo University of the Arts.
Committed to making art available to the widest possible audience he combines extensive experience of working with artists, both national and international, with a strong academic background in art history. As a curator and programme director, he has worked on, co-organised and produced numerous monographic and thematic exhibitions most recently with particular focus on championing the work of emerging and mid-career Japanese artists never before seen in the UK, and by so doing, promoting the study of the field and the introduction of Japanese art overseas.
Encompassing the complete life cycle of art production, from production to dissemination, exhibition and interpretation, and a spectrum of work (commissions, residencies, gallery and site-specific exhibitions, publications, festivals, symposiums, net and online projects, talks and events) grounded in professional practice at the highest level, resonate with culture and open up new dialogues.
Previously, he has held positions at leading cultural institutions and commissioning agencies such as the Institute of Contemporary Arts (2000-2002), where he was responsible for the centre’s bi-annual digital media festival working with artists such John Maeda (MIT). At Film and Video Umbrella, London, he was involved in the commissioning of national touring exhibitions of newly commissioned work in moving image and new media with a focus on installation-based practices highlights of which include; ‘Cinerama’ the Turner Prize-nominated collaboration by British film-maker and artist Isaac Julien and the Venezuelan-born choreographer and dancer Javier De Frutos, ‘Looking for Alfred’, by acclaimed Belgian artist, Johan Grimonprez (the maker of the celebrated ‘Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y’) exploring the legacy of Alfred Hitchcock. At the cutting-edge of artistic and technological innovation, other projects produced at Film and Video Umbrella included work by respected artists such as Sonia Boyce, Michael Landy, Jane and Louise Wilson, Abigail Lane, Erika Tan, Supta Biswas, Jananne Al-Ani, Adam Chodzko, Cornford & Cross, Marine Hugonnier and Carey Young.
Consecutively, he was a researcher at ZKM, Karlsruhe working with the then Director of the Visual Media Institute on a curatorial project re-interpreting the centre’s media art collection.
As director of space/social space, and subsequently, Programme Director and curator, Beppu Project, Japan, his activities focused on international artist residencies and off-site programme through the commissioning with exhibitions including work by internationally acclaimed contemporary artists; Adel Abdessemed, Michael Lin, Hossein Golba, Lani Maestro, Sarkis, Jin-me Yoon and Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries. Followed by international residencies by British artists Adam Chodko and Sutapa Biswas.
Several site-specific displays of contemporary Chinese artists’ work, have included installations by emerging artists’ working in moving image from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Taiwan, and Hong Kong exhibited across Newcastle and at The BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. Part of East 08, a celebration of contemporary Asian culture, which toured to the V&A, London as part of ‘CHINA NOW’ – the largest festival of Chinese culture ever in the UK. International residencies included Nissan Art Award winner Yuko Mohri’s first extended period of research and project development outside of Japan, and the ambitious residency and touring exhibition project A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling the result of a cultural exchange of two artists between the UK and Japan, undertaken to celebrate the 150th anniversary of formal links between the two countries.
Central to these projects is the establishment of strategic and mutual partnerships, negotiated and delivered working with international galleries, artists and cultural organisations. Projects were developed in collaboration and partnership with cultural agencies such as Culture 10, major cultural festivals such as CHINA NOW, EAST’08 & The British Council’s UK-Japan 2008 and Japan 150 festivals. Working with galleries and venues such as BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and V&A South Kensington, London, BankART NYK, Visiting Arts, Beppu Project and P3 art and environment.
As International Projects Associate, Central Saint Martins he co-established the relationship and later joint Global Art Joint Project of the Graduate School of Fine Arts, Tokyo University of the Arts, in 2015, in collaboration with the world’s top art institutions: the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris; Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London; and the School of Art Institute of Chicago.
In 2009 he was the recipient of a Cultural Leadership Award; UK Government-funded investment in excellence in leadership across the creative and cultural industries. Subsequently, he was awarded a Research Fellow from The Japan Foundation and later Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, and undertook several extended research trips to Japan, China and wider Asia-Pacific region. Research interests encompass Contemporary Japanese art since the 1960s, contemporary exhibitions of Japanese art; Japanese artists in the international diaspora, performance art and the body in art; strategies and politics of curating ‘Japanese’ art; twentieth-century Japan and modernity; Visual culture in Japan and spectatorship, transnational art and post-March 11 artistic activity; Criticism and curating in the Japanese art world.
As a Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Japanese Art, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, he specialises in the study and teaching of Japanese art. He has also given and participated in numerous conference and talks, lectures and delivered discussion events at esteemed institutions including the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, Tokyo Geidai, 3331 Arts Chiyoda, Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, Japan Foundation and University of the Arts London.
Selected organisations and institutions he has partnered and or collaborated with include; Serpentine Galleries, London; BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Newcastle/Gateshead; NFT South Bank London; EAI, New York; BankArt NYK, Yokohama; Tate Art Galleries; P3 art and environment, Tokyo; Beppu Project NPO, Oita; Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, Norwich; ShanghArt gallery, Shanghai; Hong Kong Arts Centre & Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts), London.