Frank Talks

Anaïs Castro – Managing Director & Curator of Arsenal Contemporary, New York and Toronto

Anaïs Castro - Managing Director & Curator of Arsenal Contemporary, New York and Toronto
Anaïs Castro - Managing Director & Curator of Arsenal Contemporary, New York and Toronto

This week we interview Anaïs Castro, the Managing Director and Curator of Arsenal Contemporary, New York and Toronto. Based in Toronto and New York, Anaïs is also an independent writer and curator. She holds a BFA in Art History from Concordia University and a Masters in Contemporary Art: History, Curating, Criticism from the University of Edinburgh. Over the past years, she has curated exhibitions and projects in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, and China, including Overturned (Geneva, 2020), Ground Control (Berlin, 2019), Over My Black Body (Montreal, 2019) and Self Abstractions (London, 2017). She is one of the founding members of the curatorial collective The Department of Love, which presented its first project in Shanghai in December 2018 and commissioned four performances by Debora Délmar, Jade Montserrat, Alvin Tran and Steven Warwick as part of the Open Programme of Art Night London 2019. She was part of the inaugural Shanghai Curators Lab (2018), was a Curator in Residence at Artpace (San Antonio, 2019), Art in General (Brooklyn, 2019), Titanik (Turku, 2017) and a Visiting Critic at BCA (Burlington, 2016). She is an editorial member of Daily Lazy and publishes regularly in esse art + opinions, Espace and this is tomorrow. Please enjoy this read – we definitely did! 

What was your first job in the Arts? 

I was a communication intern at Association des galeries d’art contemporain in Montreal in 2007. 

What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?

That collaboration is the most powerful tool there is in the art world.

Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?

I initially set out to study communication in college, but a set of circumstances made it that my university application got lost in the internal mail of Concordia University and I entered the Art History department instead thinking that I would complete a minor. After the first session, I began to learn to think critically about the world through the practice and work of artists and I was hooked. 

What do you do now? 

I’m the Managing Director and Curator of Arsenal Contemporary New York & Toronto. 

Where are you from? 

I’m originally from Montreal, Canada

What is the arts community like there? 

Supportive, generous and friendly, but unfortunately not as diverse as it should be. 

Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?

In a way, undoubtedly, but I’m also the product of the other places where I’ve lived and worked.

What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?

To listen to others, and cultivate empathy and solidarity. They are the best currencies in the art world.

What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?

I don’t think that I could single out one thing in particular because accomplishments are meaningful in the moment they happen and relevant in how they contribute to propelling you forward. 

What has been a challenge for you?

Trusting my instinct and not falling into the trap of contemporary art trends. 

What is something you do every day at the office (or your current home office)?

I bookmark artists I want to check out later. It’s gotten to a point where I need subsections.

What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?

There are many, but scooping up poop has to take the cake.

What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?

A good employee is someone who is reliable and trustworthy; a good boss is someone who is empathetic and able to motivate others to give the best of who they are.

What do you think makes a person hirable?

A mix of experience, personality and knowledge. 

What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace? Any good tips for a giving a great interview?

Be honest with yourself and others. If you don’t know something, say it. There is no shame in wanting to learn.

Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?

Make sure you really want this. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds, but I promise there are moments of great joy.

Any other anecdotes about your working experience that you would like to share?

Weird things happen at after parties. Sometimes it’s better to just go to bed. 

What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?

Christopher Kulendran Thomas at the Schinkel Pavillon in the fall of 2019 was a tour de force in my opinion.

If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?

It’s unfair to limit this to only five, but Fin Simonetti, Catherine Telford-Keogh, Kapwani Kiwanga, Hajra Waheed and Cindy Ji Hye Kim are up there with many, many others. Yes, these are all Canadian artists.