We had the good fortune of connecting with Erika Hirugami and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Erika, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
I attended the Sothebys Institute of Art before diving in the Doctoral work I do now at UCLA. When I was in Sotheby’s, I wanted to find an interconnected way for galleries and museums to work cohesively, to best utilize the benefits of both models together, and generate transcendental praxis within the existing art world. That is how CuratorLove was born, out of one of my classes when I was trying to find ways to converge both the non-profit with the for-profit sides of business. Upon graduating and beginning to work in the real world (as opposed to creating a concept from within the comfort of academia), I realized that if I wanted to generate something transformative to push the art world forward, it would have to be artists centered. What we understand today as the common art business models (museums, galleries, etc) often take advantage of the artist community, at that point I knew that I wanted to service artists in a different way, to make the future of the art world revolve around their needs, as opposed to making them serve the needs of the art world.
What should our readers know about your business?
I think the current state of the universe, amid COVID and a global uprise that is seeking to challenge racist policies and white supremacy, has made me hyper-aware of the need for my type of practice in the art world. As a Mexican entrepreneur in a country that hates immigrants, I often question if what I do is of importance, because it is very difficult to be Latinx in the US. Lately, as I see more and more art spaces push to a similar agenda than what has been driving CuratorLove for the past five years, I can’t help but be proud of our mission. CuratorLove began with the single yearning for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the art world for Latinx and Black communities since our founding day. With the horror stories raised by #ChangeTheMuseum and #CancelArtGalleries, I am proud that before CuratorLove was even an entity we openly acknowledged the failure of both business models and pushed away from them. I used to dislike people asking me what does CuratorLove do, but now I am proud to state that we offer custom services for art professionals, that I work for artists and with artists to find equity and sustainability in the art world, and that unlike the most recent tokenizing efforts of most art spaces, we sought to redefine inclusion before we even launched our first project over. As of today we have done 50+ exhibitions, and published 10 books, aside from countless articles, catalogs, and lectures at museums, galleries, and alternative art spaces across the globe. How we do, what we do, seems to be the way people are moving towards, now that the art world is on pause and the universe feels broken. I appreciate knowing that the business model I created thrives because its foundational mission is of great importance to the BIPOC art community.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My kitchen! In the world of COVID, the art universe is on pause, museums are closed, galleries feel uncomfortable to visit. No disrespect to any gallery still receiving visitors, but I find it difficult as a WOC visiting a white cube, while the essential population of the country is dying every day for my safety. I’ve visited one or two galleries in the past months, and gallery owners don’t even want to wear a mask. That is fine, you keep that privilege, as my BIPOC communities are being affected at greater rates, I will just have to stay far away from that for now. The last time I hung out with one of my curator friends, we relaxed in my kitchen had some homemade pastries, checked out the latest art fair, and had a great conversation about the art world in transition from the comfort of my kitchen, and then took a mini-tour of my own private collection. The most existing thing I can think of now is being respectful of each other, and mindful that the world out there is broken and we need to hold each other up while we figure out how to stand-in solidarity together.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have been extremely fortunate to have amazing mentors all throughout my journey in academia and the art world. The people who inspire me the most come in all shapes and sizes, from professors at universities, to art mothers trying to create beauty amid all sorts of brokenness. An artist currently inspiring me is William Camargo, the way he converges social activism with his aesthetic practice is masterful. I truly appreciate that he is giving the Latinx narrative so much visibility from a pure place of honesty. Also as of lately, Jill Steggall and I have had a lot of interesting conversations around #ChangeTheMuseum and #CancelArtGalleries. Another person inspiring right now is Anuradha Vikram, who I am fortunate to work alongside with for.
Mask Photo – Artwork behind by Luciana Abait. Dark Photo – Artwork by Yayoi Kusama on view at Broad. Desk Photo – Postcard by William Camargo. Mirror Photo – Artwork by Adrian Piper on view at Hammer. and Art Footies.