Curator of People

Words by Andreas Francisco
Photography by Amedeo Benestante, Tone Kroken & Luca Florina

Interview originally published in Volume Six.

Kristine Standnes likes to decorate with art. But instead of using the art piece as a standalone furniture that compliments the room, she begins with the art as the center of the planning and lets everything else flow from there. It’s sort of how she’s living today, in Napoli with her husband and three kids, doing freelance work within all aspects of the city’s creative culture. As a host of residences, where she uses her network to help artists by exhibiting their work and give them room to unfold, she has found her place as not just a curator of art, but also people.

Firstly, tell us how you ended up in Naples.
– I’ve been living here for ten years, after studying architecture in Milan and Brussels. My husband is from Naples and we decided to move here right before our first son was born, living and working here ever since. I was nineteen the last time I lived in Norway.

And what do you do for work?
– If you’re a creative in Italy you’re most likely not just doing one thing, but a whole range of stuff. Some work is paid, others not. That’s how it goes down here. To me it’s been about balancing the type of work that’s more permanent with freelance work. I recently finished decorating a private clinic here in Napoli, where I worked with the rooms and how we wanted them to be perceived. We ended up displaying several artworks all over the clinic, a collaboration with the art foundation Fondazione Morra. 

How does one get a job like that? 
– It was a good mix between chatting, networking and applying. There aren’t many who are willing to exhibit their art publicly like that, so my relationship with the local museums, the Fondazione Morra and so on helped. They’re the ones who own the art and lets the clinic borrow it on display. I also host a lot of art performances and residencies, meaning we provide artists with a place to work, perform and exhibit their art. This is one of those more permanent things I do, which actually started after we renovated an old tower from the 13th century. We were really happy with the tower and it lead to the idea of hosting art events there.  

Are there a lot of art residencies in Naples? 
– No, that’s the thing. After doing it for some years, I found that there were no residencies that offered the same program in our area. That’s when we decided to formalize and develop the concept. It’s exciting and nice for artists to come here. We mostly do it in the spring, giving them the nature of nice and warm surroundings and inspiration. They seem happy with it. 

What’s funny about talking to Kristine is that she’s lived in Italy for so long she speaks Norwegian with an accent, as if she was an Italian woman who spoke Norwegian fluently, and not the other way around. But her Norwegian heritage is still very important to her, and every summer her three kids go back to Norway to live with their grandparents. She does this both for their sake and for the sake of work, turning July into her most busy month of the year, workwise. 

What do you actually do when you work with the residencies? 
– It’s mostly administrative work on my part. Getting contacts, expanding my network and reaching out to artists we would like to work with. We used to only have one big artist, who came here with all of his or her people. But we’ve gone from that to having four artists at a time for up to five months. They live here and perform here and get a chance to exhibit in one of the museums we collaborate with.

It seems like developing the art culture of Naples has become a very personal thing to you.
–It’s the type of work that gives me the most value, as a person. Plus it allows me to travel around Italy, to seek out even more art and creativity at shows, exhibitions and vernissages, expand my network. Many of my closes friends are artists here in Naples, and though I’ve been a student of architecture, I’ve always thought of it as something that goes hand in hand with art. The possibilities of it, the expression. The art culture of Naples is something I would like to help develop even more.

If someone offered you a job at, say, an architectural firm, would you say yes?
–No, I don’t think so. It took me a long while to work up the experience and network I have today, plus I’ve finally started to love being my own boss. In a permanent position at a firm, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do all of these different things that I do today. I need that space where I can plan on my own grounds and think freely.