Profile: Curating, Art Consultancy & Academia

Keith Whittle is a curator, academic, and writer based in London.

Supporting diverse and emergent artistic and curatorial practices through research, exhibitions and publishing. His projects often create a dialogue between the historical and contemporary, with cultural exchange and the transnational emerging as a common thread in his work. Primarily focused on commissioning new work, he has co-produced numerous curatorial and specialist projects including monographic and thematic exhibitions encompassing the complete life cycle of art production, from inception to exhibition and interpretation, across a spectrum of work (commissions, residencies, gallery and site-specific exhibitions, publications, festivals, symposiums, talks and events), working with artists, commercial and not-for-profit agencies, galleries and museums.

Beginning his career at Film and Video Umbrella, London during the heyday of the YBAs. The presentation of artists’ moving image was the focus of his activities from 1995-2005 touring experimental film, video and performance art; Vito Acconci, Marina Abramovic and Ulay, later work by emerging artists exploring the medium; Cheryl Donegan, Douglas Gordon, Gillian Wearing, Sam Taylor-Wood and Vanessa Beecroft. Subsequently, the realisation of national touring exhibitions of artists’ moving image commissioned and exhibited in partnership with galleries and cultural institutions, highlights of which include; Cinerama by the Turner Prize nominee and British artist-filmmaker Isaac Julien, Parade by Turner Prize winner Mark Leckey, A Free and Anonymous Monument by Jane and Louise Wilson and Looking for Alfred by acclaimed Belgian artist, Johan Grimonprez exploring the legacy of Alfred Hitchcock among many others.

An ongoing passion continued through curated programmes of the Film London Jarman Award that recognises and supports artists working with moving-image and celebrates the spirit of experimentation, imagination and innovation in the work of artist filmmakers inspired by visionary filmmaker Derek Jarman. Film London and Channel 4’s Random Acts, display of work by Turner Prize winner Laure Prouvost, and return to early-experimental film and video through a curated programme of work by renowned filmmaker Tony Hill, among others.

In 2005 after 11 years working at the centre of the UK art scene, he left Film and Video Umbrella to pursue a Research Fellowship and role as a Programme Director and curator. Furthering his curatorial and research interests in modern and contemporary art of Asia, it’s aesthetic, cultural and political histories and processes that shape its production. With cultural exchange emerging as a common thread in his work.

He has curated collaborative exhibitions working with cultural organisations such as the British Council, that highlight connections and exchange between Asia(s) and the West, and since 2005 initiated and curated several international gallery and site-specific displays of contemporary artists’ work from the region, including installations by emerging Chinese artists working in moving image, sound and installation art from mainland China, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong exhibited 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. 

The first international residency and solo exhibition for Nissan Art Award winner Yuko Mohri and residency and touring exhibition projects such as A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling. A cultural exchange of two artists between the UK and Japan, undertaken during the 150th anniversary of formal links between the two countries working with the British Council Japan and BankArt NYK. Into the World of Palpable Objects and Fruitful Delight, Malaysian artist Fan Chon Hoo’s first solo exhibition in London, and more recent projects working with Shubigi Rao, Curator of Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2022-23 and Leah Gordon, Co-founder of the Ghetto Biennale, Haiti.

In 2006 he was nominated by writer and curator Karen Smith to participate in the inaugural residency programme of OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT Shenzhen). Followed by a receiving a Cultural Leadership Award; UK Government-funded investment in excellence in leadership across the creative and cultural industries with Visiting Arts, Central Saint Martins and P3 art and environment Tokyo, which drew him closer to research and curatorial activities in Japan, leading to his role with responsibility for International Projects in Fine Art, UK-Japan at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. Followed by Research Fellowships at the school and The Japan Foundation, outcomes of which include a joint symposia with Tokyo Geidai and later establishment of collaborative academic and research activities. The former supporting the establishment of the Global Art Course a joint project of the Graduate School of Fine Arts, Tokyo University of the Arts, in 2015, in collaboration with 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.  

As a programme director, curator and arts producer in Japan, his activities include artist residencies, and site-specific projects working with internationally acclaimed contemporary artists; Adel Abdessemed, Michael Lin, Hossein Golba, Lani Maestro, SARKIS, Jin-me Yoon and Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries., and international residencies by British artists Adam Chodko and Sutapa Biswas.

In 2015, he joined White Rainbow, a London gallery, as Associate Curator and Advisor. Exhibiting international artists, with a focus on contemporary art from Japan. The gallery frequently presents artistic practices never before shown in the UK through exhibitions, research and publishing, creating a dialogue between historical work and emerging artistic practices. It’s programme includes solo and group exhibitions by Shigeo Anzaï, Tomie Ohtake, Satoru Aoyama, Lydia Okumura, Kazuko Miyamoto, Yuko Mohri, Chikako Yamashiro, Chim↑Pom, Aki Sasamoto, Taro Izumi, Meiro Koizumi and Mari Katayama.

Activities that run concurrently with transdisciplinary research and teaching through lectures, talks that raise further awareness of Japanese post-war art history and its relationship to international art movements. He has participated in numerous conferences and events at 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. As an academic, he teaches and lectures about different aspects of art, curating and museology at Sotheby’s Institute of Art and other art institutions.