Laura Smith


Some rough notes from this afternoons session:

Curator @ Tate St Ives

3.5 years

Prev curator @ Nottingham Contemporary

What she does:

Programme of solo and group exhibitions in the galleries

From post-humous collections (more straight forward.. choosing from catalogues)

Young artsist to commission new work (fees and production costs)

Galleries who represent artists (and also estates)

Aquatopia large international exhibition from 200 places

Director of Tate Britain curated Aquatopia

Lead in times 2–5 years (usually) Aquatopia took 10years

Solo show quicker 1/2 years depending on if it’s new work

Diverse range so programmes 3 years blocks

1 British alive artist

1 British dead

1 alive international

1 dead internation

2 Group exhibitions

Create a wish list of 200 works- track them down, find out if they can be borrowed

Geography of the town means that can’t exhibit the larger works as the trucks can’t get in

Works can be booked 3 or 4 years in advance as they are requested internationally

Edit work down depending on availability, cost etc

Down to 200

Make tiny scale paper cut out of work- there is a 3d scan which they can use but prefer blue tack and model of the building

Finally coherent exhibition

No cruelty or animal nudity as tourist attraction

Once the show is decided work with ad team and artsist to work out how to represent the show

Interpretative texts created

2 weeks to put up a show (3 times a year)

Also have a residency programme

1 month to 6 months

No prescribed outcome

Give artists an opportunity to come and work without the pressure of a specific outcome

1 public talk at Falmouth Uni

Usually artists want to create something at the end- choreographed a ballet, performances (Lucy Stein) film screening, poetry

Learning Curators

Community and audience development work

Programme works, events and workshops to run alongside the exhibition

Talks, seminars, work responding to

6 in this department compared to 2 normal curators

300 artists on their books

Studio visits

Read all reviews

Audience surveys and feedback reviews

Mixture of what the different audiences want tourist, locals, and arty types

BA fine art Glasgow school of art

Making own work but more interested in other peoples work than her own]

Arranged pop up exhibitions

Finding empty shop units and using them


Alcohol sponsorship

Arts Council England Grant

£10000 6 weeks to decide 8000 words

More than £10000 more time

Unlikely to get the higher one unless you have a deal of working history

Tried other areas- Portugal, Scotland etc as had artists from these areas showing

Lots of diversity really works- Koreans, fisher men

Martin Klarke- director of St Ives Tate

Started freelancing for him

he became her mentor

LCA Curating MA

All decisions are made as a group

6 days a week


2 years

Similar course at Goldsmiths- much more commercially based- working in commercial gallery

Then assistant curator @ Nottingham

Been there 1 year when the job @ St Ives came up

Research interests matched what the museum needed

Able to stand up and say that there were not nearly enough women being exhibited

21:1 solo exhibitions

87:13% group exhibits

Do you ever use unnamed work and what are the challenges???

Does have some

Just says unknown artist

Can sometimes be dated

Provenance who brought it

Previous owners

Immunity from seizure- if someone owned a work which was seized by the Nazis it has then gone out of Europe

Everything is being exhibited has to go on a website then people can see it if it used to belong to their family

Artist working with curators

When in Glasgow people coming in to make slides of their work and send them to galleries with a covering letter

Gets 20 emails a week sending bad JPEGS of work

Or even worse actual work- has to be shipped back- when it enters the building it becomes the resp of St Ives so can’t even be posted

Unless you have a connection to a curator or have met them cold emailing does not work- too many coming through……

Best thing to do- go to as many things as possible and organise as many things as possible- invite lots of people

Google what people look like and introduce yourself

Or go to a talk and ask a question, give your card, make yourself memorable, ask for a card


Little books

Find a personal memorable way of introducing yourself

Try to piggyback things- get involved in other work that’s happening

Karst in Plymouth- go there community engagement projects

Hannah Jones


Apply for residencies if you can listings of all the residencies across the world

After done a few smaller scale exhibitions start writing some funding applications to get used to how to apply

Elephant trust (for funding own practise)

Flemmish gov to go work in Belgium

Henry Moore foundation (sculptural work)

Embassies if you are curating artists from other countires

Email Laura and she will pass on my email to the Learning Curators