Posted 13 July 2022
Interview by N'Tanya Clarke
Mention Pacheanne Anderson

Curator Pacheanne Anderson on challenging class, tokenism and neurotypical standards in the art world

With a knack for discovering artists and their practices, Pacheanne Anderson’s work as a curator, writer and consultant transcends the exhibition, entering a hybrid of networking and research. Having completed gallery internships and an MSc in Art, Business and Law, he has overcome serious socioeconomic barriers within the art world to get to where he is today, with the aim of centering Black artists in a still largely-white space. Here, Pacheanne tells us about getting upper-class buyers to understand the work of non-white artists, his shift from creator to curator and being neurodivergent in the fast-moving art world.

Pacheanne Anderson

Pacheanne Anderson

Job Title

Curator, Art Writer and Consultant



Selected Clients

Holly Jackson, Whitechapel Gallery, Rachel Williams, Guts Gallery

Place of Study

MSc Art, Law and Business, Christie’s Education (2020-2021)

Social Media


What I do

How would you describe what you do?
I curate art and cultural events, with the goal of putting Black artists in spaces where they’re more likely to meet collectors, journalists and other people of a certain stature in the art world. As galleries usually deal with that side of things, the core of my practice is to dispel any restrictions and barriers to entry. The nature of the spaces and kinds of people that are buying the artwork isn’t something that the artists I work with usually have access to.

I work to bring these people – with upper-class and white middle-class backgrounds – closer to the artists, because I want them to understand them as people, as opposed to just buying their work and flipping it for money. It’s important that they understand the stories behind the work – I want them to respect the artist’s practice.

I just finished my MSc and haven’t been able to throw myself completely into curation yet, but I’m getting my research and curatorial ideas together so I can propose shows to galleries. I’m in the relationship-building phase right now, figuring out which galleries have an ethos I like, because I’ve gotten to the stage of signing contracts with a gallery, and the contract will say the opposite of everything we’ve discussed – so at the moment it’s important that I take my time.

“I want the upper-class and white middle-class buyers to understand the work of POC artists, instead of just buying and flipping it.”

What have been your favourite projects to work on?
The Factory Project, which was part of London’s Frieze Week, is probably my favourite. Although tiring, it was really nice to work in a warehouse space. It was so expansive [at 67,000 square ft], and allowed me to bring my curatorial vision to life in a space for the first time. Because there were leaking ceilings and no heat, I had to build it from nothing and really transform it; I really grafted for that show. I knew half of the artists, so that was also nice.

That experience has made me excited for future projects, where I get to work with people whose work I admire. This year, I’m focused on performance and video art. I just finished working on Spit Cycle: Part 1, with one of my artists, Holly Jackson. Some of the themes she works with are quite dark, but she goes about her practice in a very humorous way, and it’s exciting to see the audience’s reactions.

It’s also lovely to know that the artists I work with believe in me. It's so important – just as much as I believe in them – because it’s all collaborative. I don’t come from a background where there was any or unlimited knowledge about the art world, and I didn’t study curation formally. All of what I know about curating has come from working in, and just experiencing, gallery spaces.

What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
To be honest, my main inspiration is being an artist and facing barriers to entry, legal discrepancies, lack of exposure and payment. I worked in galleries from a young age, through work experience and internships. I noticed how young or queer artists would only do a certain exhibition or only be commissioned at a certain time of year. I didn’t feel comfortable and didn’t want to be an artist who “fits” all of these intersections and was continually tokenised. I wanted to show my films, but I didn’t want to only show it in a Black queer space or a strictly queer space.

Sometimes it can be hard to let go of the dream of just making art – getting involved in the business side can blur your perception of things a bit. The year I finished my bachelor’s degree in film, I did a few exhibitions. At the time, I was still doing videography to maintain my finances, but I found it really boring, so I packed it up. However, after a few years of understanding the business and art market and being around more artists, I wanted to create again.

All my friends are creatives. I started thinking about how I can help them not go through the same things. I took a step back, did research and looked at courses that would help with this. My bachelor’s degree being in film meant I had no legal background, so I tried to find a course that would help me learn that side of the art business.

Polaroids from Pacheanne’s show, We Get to Chose Our Families, at Whitechapel Gallery. Originals courtesy of Museum of Transology 2022.

Would you say there’s any specific training for what you do?
There’s a lot of formalised training for curation now. You can study it, less so at bachelor’s level, but there are many master’s degrees for it. In my eyes, a curator is just someone who likes to research and showcase a specific area that they love. A curator doesn’t always have to produce exhibitions – it could be a series of performances, screenings, or even a book. So just be around as many researchers, writers, journalists or creative producers as you can.

In the past, I’ve had jobs in social media, project and content management. In these jobs you learn how to produce, based on an area of interest or research you’re interested in. There are many different ways to get into curating, and once you make good relationships, the spaces, artists and whoever you need to fulfil a project will come to you.

“Once you build good relationships, the spaces, artists and whoever you need to fulfil a project will come to you.”

If you could sum up your job in a meme, what would it be and why?

How I got here

What was your journey like when starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
I didn’t really know what it was like to be a curator [when I started], so I looked for workshops and found one at the Tate. The workshop leader was someone I became close to and saw as a mentor; I followed what they were doing and started looking for different courses that could help me – even those I wasn’t qualified for. I studied art and film, but a lot of business master’s degrees require a background in finance or economics.

I produced a really good personal statement got in. Then I started reading loads, and had the opportunity to put on a few shows. I think getting in [to such courses] and finding a way toward your first exhibition or final project is the way.

There are real barriers to entry and once you get in [to the industry], there’s more. Forcing yourself to go to different events and different galleries will really help. It wasn’t easy at first because I was around a lot of upper-class people. I struggled socially and there was a lot of imposter syndrome.

Can you tell us more about your writing?
My writing is something I’d like to develop and work on more. Writing is a part of my practice where I’m able to think about the things I’m researching. I don’t necessarily write with an intention or conclusive answer, or to push my views on anyone; oftentimes when I’m writing about art or artists, I would’ve known their practice and been following them for a long time already. It’s a way for me to figure out what my interests are within a body of work, an area or themes.

I love interviewing artists, doing studio visits, bringing my thoughts to them and the conversations that come from it. It’s not about reviewing the work and talking about what it means in the world, because even as a curator I can’t say I’m 100 percent sure on what an artist is trying to say. When doing interviews, I’ll often pick up something that they haven’t even noticed in their work and they’ll go off and think about it.

My ADHD doesn’t allow me to write in a way where I pitch and continuously produce writing. Deadlines are something that I need extra time on and the fast pace of the industry doesn’t allow for that. It’s so disappointing sometimes, because you spend weeks or months researching something, only for the pitch to get turned down or ignored.

“My ADHD doesn’t allow me to pitch, write and repeat. Deadlines are something I need more time on and the fast pace of the industry doesn’t allow for that.”

If you could pick something or someone you found useful or inspiring to your practice, what or who would they be and why?
Languid Hands are a huge inspiration. They’re a curatorial duo and are artists too. I love the fact that they were coming up at a time where I wasn’t as comfortable in the scene. Understanding who was curating and the possibilities within curation was so important for me.

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work?
I think consistency is what’s important with social media. Outside of using Instagram for work, I don’t really go on it much. Regardless of self-promotion, I think the platform is good to figure out what you want [to express], as well as who you are and what you want people to understand about the things you’re doing. Once you’re doing those three things, you can figure out how you’re going to showcase that, and then stay consistent.

I don’t put pressure on myself to post every week. However, I ensure that once a quarter I’m doing at least two round-ups of what I’ve been working on and my thoughts. I won’t always post the shows I’m going to, but when necessary, I’ll post, put the location and tag the people that I feel need to see it. It’s a weird way of networking, but since Covid, a lot more people are open to the idea of doing it online.

“I think Instagram is good to figure out what you want [to express], as well as who you are and what you want people to understand about the things you’re doing.”

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
I’m not too sure yet, because I haven’t done that on a large scale. I’m freelance and with a lot of jobs I get, I don’t get paid until after the event has happened. Sometimes it can be five months or even six, so in terms of sustainability, I’m still figuring that out. I’m getting good jobs, big projects and I’m also doing consultancy for artists that want a quick session. I’m getting money here and there off of projects in between, and I’m half on Universal Credit and half on commission at the moment.

I would just say to make sure that you have paid part-time work, just because of the [slow-paying] nature of most art jobs, curator jobs or jobs in research.

My advice

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
It would be to make make sure you have paid part-time work. Yes, you need to spend time outside, reading and going to events, but you also need to make sure you have money to pay your rent and fund going to these events.

Some of the tickets for the shows – until you make the networks and can get in for free – are really expensive, and they add up. Even if you’re working full-time, it can be hard to fund going to all of these things.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into a similar role?
Make your needs clear at job interviews, because it’s the first chance to be clear about how you will work together. When I was working at Christie’s, I said that I needed one day off in the middle of the week because I’m neurodivergent, and that it was high pressure work. I took the day off to decompress, but also to do research. So even if you have a full-time job, just ask if they can be flexible and swap it for a Saturday.

Also, pick the right job for you. There are always multiple ways for you to get access to the same sort of career. Do you want to be a research assistant in a library or another institution? Pick the place that will make you comfortable and take your time. If you’re studying, take your third year to actually research jobs so you don’t have to be broke for months after university.


We Get to Chose Our Families, curated by Helen Davison in collaboration with Pacheanne Anderson, Ansh Meeta and E-J Scott, is on at Whitechapel Gallery until 7 August.

Interview by N'Tanya Clarke
Mention Pacheanne Anderson