Ever wondered who is in charge of gallery exhibitions or museum showings? Well, fear not because we are here to walk you through the duties and responsibilities of the ever illustrious Curator.
Traditionally, a curator is a keeper of a cultural heritage institution (e.g., gallery, museum, library or archive). Curators are charged with an institution’s collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material including historical artifacts. That sounds like a lot…and it is. With some institutes such as independent galleries and small showrooms, curators are solely responsible for acquisitions and even for collections care. The curator makes decisions regarding what objects to select, oversees their potential and documentation, conducts research based on the collection and its history, provides proper packaging of art for transportation, and shares research with the public and community through exhibitions and publications.
How the Curator Changed over time
From the beginning of time curators have been the chronicles of time. Preserving artifacts from stone and rock, to the earliest written scripts. Without them were would not have been able to glimpse into our past. As the world change so did the curator, from saving official documents and culture structures to saving portraits and drawings. Royalty and nobility in the early 18th century gave a boost to the Arts in their domains resulting in portraits being new in thing and once again curators were in charge of preserving their patron’s favorite artworks. Famous Curators such as Okwui Enwezor, Lucy Lippard, Marcel Duchamp, and many more have shaped what we classify as contemporary Art today. Once again we are seeing a change in curator’s duties with the introduction of Digital Curators. Digital Curators are responsible for the selection, preservation, maintenance, collection, and archiving of digital assets.
How to become a curator
To become a museum curator you usually have to complete an arts or science degree at university with a major in a relevant area, such as anthropology, archaeology, fine arts, history, cultural studies, astronomy, biology or environmental science (preferably at honors level), followed by a postgraduate qualification in museum studies, curatorship or cultural heritage management. To get into the degree courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Entry to postgraduate courses usually requires completion of an appropriate bachelor’s degree and may require previous museum experience. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study.
To work in an art gallery you should have a degree in a relevant subject, such as art or art history. You could start work as an assistant curator, conservator, or education manager before becoming a curator. As gallery work is a competitive field, gaining experience through volunteering or an internship is usually essential. You could approach galleries, museums, or heritage properties directly to see if they have any opportunities for work experience. Some also offer traineeships.
New and Exciting Curators to keep an eye on
- Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, Artistic Director | Sonsbeek 2020, Arnhem, The Netherlands
- Koyo Kouoh, Executive Director and Chief Curator | Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa
- Tandazani Dhlakama, Assistant Curator | Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) in Cape Town, South Africa
- Eva Langret, Artistic Director | Frieze London
- Jeppe Ugelvig, Independent Curator
- Qu Chang, Curator, Para Site, Hong Kong
As the world continues to evolve so do many careers including being a curator.