Curatorial Research (Articles and Reviews)

The PDF file I found by LRQ included many reviews of different art mediums. The one I was particularly interested in was the one of the book New Media in the White Cube and Beyond: Curatorial Models for Digital Art by Christiane Paul. The review was written by John F. Barber of Washington State University (page 34–35).

The first thing the book tackles is to answer the question, what is the definition of new media art? However we find that it is an ever changing art form with countless opportunities for growth. New media art can vary drastically, it can be an installation or at the other end of the spectrum it can be a software design. This then lends itself to the question, how will curating be incorporated into this new media art, is it even needed?

The book then moves onto different opportunities for new media in gallery spaces and how, although sometimes can be problematic, it is still an experience that shouldn’t be forgotten. Curating is an art form in itself and as such should be open to growth like any other medium. Steve Dietz (former curator and now artistic director of Northern Lights art agency) suggests that developments should be made to traditional gallery spaces to insure they are capable to display new forms of media art, allowing both curating and the gallery experience to develop alongside technology.

The main point for this book is to help people embrace that the “traditional roles of artists and curators are being redefined, often to more collaborative models of production and presentation. The audience is often involved as well, participating in the artwork in ways counter to the traditional role of museums and galleries as shrines for contemplating sacred objects.”

Everybody’s an Art Curator by Ellen Gamerman, 2014.

There has been an upsurge in museums giving the public greater say in the curation of an exhibition and even sometimes submitting the publics own works. It has been proven by many shows recently that this is a quicker and cheaper way to curate and that it has boosted tickets sales for said shows. However does this form of curating take something away from traditional highly trained professionals who would usually decide on the artwork and it's sequencing?

An example of one of these shows is #SocialMedium which was held at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle. It consisted the public voting on artworks they would like to see in an exhibition, resulting in 40 different paintings curated by 4259 people. See website below, including virtual tour of the exhibition.

This new trend is accompanied by a growing debate between artists and curators, whether this style is detrimental to the sanctity of curating as an art form. It definitely has its benefits, allowing more interaction between the public and the museums, increasing sales and encouraging more of an interest in the artwork itself. Countering this however is that there is a very real chance that after the voting you will be left with variety of different art work that have no cognitive theme or sequence, it just doesn’t have a purpose. Personally I feel curating is an art form and that you should have a certain level of skill to do it professionally. However I do see the benefits of publicly curated shows and feel both styles should be embraced. If not surveys from the public to see what type of exhibition themes they want to see at their local gallery can give the curators a direction of interest without trying to do their job for them.

Beyond the Head: The Practical Work of Curating Contemporary Art, by Sophia Krzys Acord, 2010.

The rise in a need for communication between artistic representation and what the public wants to see has resulted in curating becoming a greater presence and having a larger importance in the art industry. Although the role of the curator was recognised in the early nineteenth century it had a far more traditional role than the curating of present day. “The combining of artworks by different artists to give selective readings on art and on the history of art is one of the fundamental principles that has underwritten curatorial practice since the mid-19th century.” Towards the end of the century however emerged a new style of curating, one that instead of basing its themes around historical art context, began experimenting with the physical layout of the exhibition itself. The curators followed the avant-garde movement of the artists allowing a less regimented portrayal of art to the public.

“The exhibition is a way to validate the originality of the curator’s point of view, his or her aptitude for discovering new talents, and the artworks themselves by exhibiting them in a dialogue with each other to an initiated public. In contrast to the taxonomical or art historical approach to exhibiting traditional art, the exhibition process in modern and contemporary art is integral to the meaning of the art work.”

Installation is a huge part of any exhibition but it is more than just putting the art on the walls. Curators decide upon a common theme which will run throughout the exhibit and then many will discuss this with the artist selected and have them create commissioned works. The curators creative role comes into play once he/she has received this art as even after lengthy deliberations and discussions it may not be what they had envisioned. Also the work may have different qualities in person that couldn’t be seen on an electronic version, or the work may just not work as well as you thought it would at the exhibition space. This means the curator has to be instinctive, experimental and imaginative (just like an artist) to insure success.

“For most of the curators I spoke with, the installation was the most 'passionate' part of the exhibition-making process: only in the space of the gallery can you understand how 'everything works.' Curators described this as a “magical” process, involving “intuition” and “surprise.” They regularly said, “I know it when I see it.” Statements like these (and, more importantly, the actions they represent) denote the importance of the embodied mastery of the “codes” and “conventions” which order artistic production and mediation.”

The curator is not just a means to communicate between artist and audience. The portrayal of the arts meaning is a collaborative effort between artist and curator, one is not worth more than the other. People like to find meaning in what they are looking at, uncertainty is not a feeling we as humans find enjoyable and therefore and exhibition without clear direction wouldn’t be favourable. Curators create order and structure to art works in an exhibition and therefore play just as crucial role to that of the artist.

Revisiting Ventzislavov’s Thesis: “Curating Should Be Understood as a Fine Art” by Sue Spaid, 2016.

Extract from The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 2016, Vol.74(1), pp.87–91. This article is a counter discussion to Rossen Ventzislavov’s thesis, Curating Should Be Understood as a Fine Art. Below are some key parts of Spaid’s argument taken directly from the text.

“While I agree that curatorial ideas offer (though only temporarily) a genuine contribution to the life of the artworks involved, I consider curatorial ideas to contribute cognitive value, not artistic value. Ventzislavov’s exclusive focus on the curator’s contributing artistic value seems to be a version of George Dickie’s institutional theory of art, whereby the curator grants artistic value through the art of selection and through the introduction of new custodial narratives. However inordinate the curator’s creativity, it is illogical to consider new custodial narratives or resulting exhibitions artworks as does Ventzislavov, who recommends that philosophers reconsider curatorship and its stake on a place among the rest of the fine arts”

“The fine arts concern the production of artworks, not their public presentations, so claiming as he does that selecting art should be thought of as a fine art suggests that the curator’s selected set succeeds on its own merit as an artwork.”

“In what follows, I reject Ventzislavov’s thesis that curating should be understood as a fine art because it overlooks four basic features of curatorial work:

  • The fine arts concern the production of artworks, not artistic directors’ presentations, which fall under design or management, even if presentation duties resemble production duties.
  • Curators contribute cognitive value, not artistic value.
  • Ventzislavov equates a curator’s presentation mode, which he variously terms curatorial idea, the creation of artistic value, selecting art, and the introduction of new custodial narratives with the idea-based nature of conceptual art. Unlike conceptual artworks, which endure even when lost, temporary classification systems rarely survive, unless the public deems them useful.
  • An exhibition checklist requires some third party to stage it, but it does not require further interpretation the way artworks awaiting exhibitions do.”

“In contrast to the performing arts, the fine arts are considered a creative art, especially visual art whose products are to be appreciated primarily or solely for their imaginative, aesthetic, or intellectual content. On its surface, this description fits exhibitions, which are the products of curatorial work. Unlike artworks, we do not credit exhibitions for their aesthetic content. We might credit the curator’s procurement of particularly beautiful objects, but only the artist can be credited for each artwork’s beauty (aesthetic content), even if some curator’s imaginative curatorial work prompted spectators to recognise its beauty. A novel custodial narrative may awaken spectators to an artwork’s pertinence, relevance, or specialness, but one could not say, “It used to be ugly, but now it is beautiful.” While spectators’ views routinely change, artworks rarely change, though of course their contexts change with each new exhibition.”

“To be presented to the public, visual art, and especially immaterial conceptual art, must be performed, either by the artist or some curator. In this sense, visual art is closer to scores, scripts, and texts than has previously been acknowledged. If curatorial ideas were artworks, then third parties would request curators to sanction their traveling exhibitions the way artists sanction other people’s presentations of their artworks. When exhibitions travel to host institutions, host curators often treat the exhibition checklist more like a shipping manifest than a blueprint for staging the show. Host institutions are under no obligation to follow the originating curator’s checklist, nor are they obligated to follow his or her layout, even if they specifically request him or her to pinpoint each artwork’s placement. Because host exhibition teams owe a greater fidelity to their public than some originating curator, they often augment traveling exhibitions with works from their own collection and/or works borrowed from local collectors and so on.”

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