California based Caro Buermann is artist manager to Hikari Shimoda and curator at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles, where she is involved with the gallery's program of artists. She generously answered a lot of our readers questions, ranging from day to day life as a curator to inquiring about submissions. We hope you enjoy learning more about her background and advice for artists as much as we did!
Many thanks to Caro for her time and insights!
Pretty Girls Making Cool Shit: Thanks for much for your time and willingness to be interviewed! Would you like to introduce yourself?
Caro Buermann: Thank you for the opportunity. My name is Caro and I am a Los Angeles based art curator. I’m also the manager of Japanese New Contemporary portrait painter Hikari Shimoda. As a curator of Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles, a big part of my job is to help define the gallery’s growing program of artists. I’m coming up on my fifth year with the gallery and ten years with Hikari.
PGMCS: Can you tell us a bit about your professional and academic background? How did you become involved in curation and artist management? What did you do before?
CB: I studied animation but I’m really a student of opportunity. I was developing a project for a major studio that opened the door for me to visit Japan. When I got there, I never looked back. Hikari and I met through mutual friends at an art opening. She was so sweet and very bold and told me she wanted to show her work in Los Angeles, so I agreed to help her. I came to know the gallery first as Hikari’s manager, working behind the scenes on her 2014 solo show, “Fantastic Planet, Goodbye Man”. I came on as a curator when the owners decided to expand into their new Downtown Los Angeles space. It's a beautiful building with three galleries in one.
PGMCS: What does your day to day look like?
CB: There is never a typical day. I was travelling constantly so the pandemic has grounded me and that’s new. I’m spending more time engaging with artists virtually and trying to make the best of the situation. I’ve enjoyed having more time to have in-depth conversations with our artists about their work and sharing those conversations with our followers. Galleries are learning how to interact digitally when you can’t in person. Live tours, like digital tours of shows, downloading talk shows with artists, it’s all kind of like reinventing the wheel. I think everyone needs to prepare for the uncertainty. The people who come out on the other end of this are going to be the ones that were adaptable and the most flexible.
PGMCS: What are you most proud of in your career?
CB: I’ve always stayed true to myself and what I love and I am very proud of that. If you absolutely love what you are doing, you will be successful. Sounds very romantic, I know. It’s an incredible feeling to execute something you are proud of and my favorite project is always the one I’m working on. Just this morning, Hikari announced her first collaboration with the Walt Disney company, a beautiful edition of Mickey Mouse in her unique style. One of Hikari’s inspirations is animation, and that’s what led me to working with artists, so it’s very special for both of us. I’m thrilled for her.
PGMCS: How have your goals or expectations in your role changed due to COVID19?
CB: My role hasn’t really changed – but I think something important that has come out of this is more interaction with our community online. I’m thinking a lot about art galleries roles in the larger cultural conversation and what our social responsibilities are, and how can I constantly improve as a curator myself. I have a desire to engage more. One of the ways that I want to do that is by organizing a public art project that injects some happiness back into people’s lives and gives to my community outside of four walls. It’s a new goal of mine.
PGMCS: What is the most bizarre thing you have ever come across in your career?
CB: Probably walking in on Hello Kitty getting undressed. There’s always crazy situations.
PGMCS: Lots of our followers had questions regarding what kind of work a curator is looking for/how you choose artist to work with, where should artists invest their time, are you able to share any insights?
CB: My advice is simple. Be kind, be professional and be educated about the galleries you are hitting up. Politely ask galleries what their submission policies are, if they have any, and set up an appointment. Spamming me with your art is the worst way to get my attention. Also, don’t hit on me or try to butter me up with flattery because I’m a woman because that won’t work either. I have this saying, “Don’t follow your dreams, follow your effort.” Dreams don’t work unless you do. I think those are good words to live by.
PGMCS: What is the best part of your job?
CB: With any show that I curate, I always want to engage the audience and open their mind to new ideas and enjoy what they’re looking at. Art audiences have so many options when it comes to their entertainment and it is up to us to make sure our shows are evolving. Today’s curators can be informed and have expertise, but we’re a bit like educators and entertainers. Sure, it takes a special set of skills to put together an exhibition but it also has to be something that people want to attend. I want to curate an experience. What I love and what I find challenging is always the same.
PGMCS: What is the worst part of your job?
CB: Curating is a lot of fun but it’s also really hard work, and if there’s a “worst part”, then that’s on me. I have to know when to take a time out for myself. Sometimes it’s perfectly okay to shut down and do nothing.
PGMCS: Do you have any advice for aspiring curators?
CB: I came into curating entirely by chance and five years in, I’m still always learning. I think the first step is leaving your ego at the door, ask a lot of questions and surround yourself with people who have done similar things that you want to do. I’ve always had an amazing support system of people who wanted to contribute to projects I was doing and saw a fire in me and were kind enough to give me good advice. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, and upgrade your conviction.
PGMCS: Is there anything you would like our readers to know that we have not asked?
CB: We’re doing this interview on the final day of Hikari Shimoda’s latest solo show, “Silence and Affirmation”, so I’d just like to plug the show and let you know that it is available for everyone to see online virtually at CoreyHelfordGallery.com. I’m really excited to be working on something positive right now that has taken me back to my roots, and I hope to be able to announce it soon. I would also really love to design a carousel one day.