Kathleen Soriano began her career at the Royal Academy of Arts 30 years ago. In 1989 she joined the National Portrait Gallery, where as Head of Exhibitions & Collections she was responsible for national and international programmes and oversaw some of its most successful exhibitions including shows on Mario Testino, Henri Cartier Bresson, Annie Leibovitz and Helmut Newton. January 2009 saw her appointed to Director of Exhibitions at the Royal Academy where she programmed and developed projects such as Bronze, David Hockney, Van Gogh and Degas. Since April 2014 she has been working independently on artistic and cultural projects, and will curate the Anselm Kiefer retrospective for the Royal Academy in September 2014. She has written extensively in her field and her broadcast activities include the first and second series of Portrait Artist of the Year for Sky Arts. - See more at: http://leadingculturedestinations.com/magazine/ambassador-qanda/kathleen-soriano/#sthash.lpMXDN7O.dpuf
If there was one piece of art you could feature in, which would it be and why?
My vanity would be satisfied if I were able to sit for Titian or, better still given my Spanish heritage, Velázquez. To be portrayed with the grandeur, nobility and lusciousness that those two artists achieve would be a great honour, although I might have to ask them to ignore Oliver Cromwell’s plea to Sir Peter Lely to paint him ‘warts and all’ - a slice of flattery would be more than welcome. However, it would be a shame to forego the sheer pleasure that I might find in meeting Arnold Bocklin, and if I were able to pose as one of the mermaids in either his Mermaids at Play, or The Waves. His Symbolist approach to fanciful subjects, that influenced so many (including Marcel Duchamp), would be fascinating. If I had to pick one artist to sit for however, it would have to be the great 19th century German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. It would be the greatest honour to pose in The Monk by the Sea. Whilst it might only be a portrait of my back against his sublime sky, it would serve to remind me (as does the postcard of this painting that is with me constantly) that one might feel that your world is out of control and overwhelming, but there is more out there to be considered, bigger things to ponder and to work towards - life is not just the small stuff of our daily lives, it's about the bigger questions in the cosmos.
Who inspires you and why? An artist, a family member, someone current or historical?
I take a little from everyone each and every day. Yesterday, my soul soared again with the possibilities presented to me by Charlotte Schepke who runs The Large Glass on Caledonian Road in London. Charlotte reminds us all what art is really about and provides space for artists to get back in touch with their practice, outside of the wheeling dealing art world that we inhabit. Last week, my daughter Martha and her friends sat raring to go at the start of their lives with their new GCSE results, which reminded me that at the age of 50, mine is not yet over, and there is still plenty to achieve and opportunities that I haven’t even conceived of yet. But I always want to lead by nurturing and caring for others, by encouraging and promoting teams, and by treading a gentle and friendly path through my career.
What are your cultural aspirations? What do you still want to see, do and achieve?
My main ambition at the moment is to get way ahead of the curve ...once I’ve finished installing my Anselm Kiefer exhibition at the Royal Academy that is... Once I’ve managed to get ahead of the curve, I’ll settle down with a nice little house by the sea, or ideally across many houses by the sides of many seas. -
What are your favourite cultural cities in the world and why?
Valencia (for heritage reasons), Copenhagen (for the train that takes you to the Louisiana Museum), Turin, Bergamo (for the artist Giovanni Battista Moroni), Rome, Vienna, London, Sydney, Paris, Antwerp, Tilburg (for the De Pont Foundation), Portland (for the micro-breweries), Bremen (the home of Paula Modersohn Becker), Palma (where art and beach live in harmony), New York, New York.
What are you up to at the moment and where can we find it?
The first ever Anselm Kiefer retrospective opens at the Royal Academy of Arts on 27 September and runs until 14 December, so for most of September you’ll find me in the 20,000sq feet of galleries with Anselm installing his great work. Once the show is open we’re both heading off to CERN in Geneva for a good look at the large hadron collider. It felt like a just reward for someone who is interested in the microcosm and the macrocosm. In between, I’ll be finishing off the filming for our second series of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year show, due to be aired later this year, and looking forward to seeing the winner’s portrait of someone special (superstar to be revealed!) unveiled at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, in December, after which it will enter their collection. I’ve contributed to a book on the series that is also due out shortly. The Cheltenham Literary Festival sees me returning to a theme that’s close to my heart and I’ll be chairing a session on Art and Ecology with the author Andrew Brown and the artists Heather & Dan Ackroyd on the subject on Monday 6 October. Soon after that I’ll be heading out to Athens to take part in a conference on the theme of Arts & the Economy - so, much to keep me busy whilst I keep my eye on the horizon.