The word curation was initially tied to the administration of mentally ill patients approximately 14th century. Curator then had virtually nothing to do with art, museums, or white gloves. Instead it was a term used to describe an official who supervised the care of large collections of art, be they paintings or sculptures. The curator had to ensure that all standards were met in respect of condition, size, color, type, and quality. The curator was also often a professor or an academic from a certain university who specialized in art and exhibited his or her own personal collection of art.
The first definition of an art curator is “a person who exhibits objects in any form such as art, furniture, stone or wood and promotes the buying, selling, displaying and appreciation of these objects.” Although this may sound like a very generalized view of what a curator actually does, museums and institutions have specific guidelines when hiring a curator. A museum’s Curator not only must be knowledgeable about the specific genres or themes that the museum represents but also the kind of impact that the objects have on its visitors. The curator must be sensitive to the audience she is working with and must know how to balance this with the preservation of the objects in question. Moreover, the Curator has to coordinate with other staff members, maintain professional relationships with the artists and other experts and be able to make strategic decisions.
Museums and educational institutions have been making use of the services of art curators for many years. The role of a curator is extremely demanding as he or she must be skilled in assessing collections and determining their value. In addition to determining the value of a collection, a good curator should also be able to recognize possible future acquisitions and should possess a knowledge base about the history of art as well as a working knowledge of different mediums. Most importantly, the Curator must be able to make connections between art and other forms of art – whether it be painting pottery, sculptures, jewelry, literature or film – that show the interrelationship of the two. This knowledge base is especially important in highly competitive fields such as art history, where the acceptance of a work of art can be conditioned by a student’s agreement to display it in a certain classroom or exhibit it in a certain exhibition.
Art curation, unlike art research or collecting, requires strong interpersonal skills and an acute sense of aesthetics. For example, a fine art curator’s job is to assist an artist in conceptualizing and then executing a specific work of art and helping the artist to develop and refine their technique and visual language. An art curator also makes decisions about the scale, medium and other technical aspects of the proposed work of art. For example, if the artist wants to include a landscape in their work (which is sometimes hard to decide on), they would need to discuss the scale, texture, and movement of the landscape with the artist. An art curator also has the power to suggest ways for the artist to better express themselves through their art and/or to ensure that the final work of art is well received in their chosen field.
In addition, art curators should always be prepared for potentially strange and/or unplanned experiences that might arise when visiting a studio, museum, gallery or private collection. Art curators need to be able to think logically and rationally about the decision to curate a certain piece, and should also have sound reasons for doing so (e.g., ensuring that the public benefit is gained). In most cases, curators are expected to be experts in one or a handful of areas and should be able to draw on this expertise when making decisions about what to curate and when. Having a diverse portfolio of work also ensures that you will have something to present to potential art buyer.
If you’re a freelance artist or run a gallery and would like to feature some of your work in an art exhibition, then you may be interested in learning more about the process of art creation. As a practicing artist, you likely already have an eye for certain types of art and/or a particular style of painting, so you may not need any additional training to perform this task. However, being involved in this process can be beneficial for you, as it means you are more likely to spot problems with the artist’s work before it reaches a dealer, allowing you to make suggestions on improvements. Even if you do not own or manage a gallery, these skills can help you run your business in a professional manner, ensuring that the products you sell are of high quality and represent the best possible value.