Defining Curating and Curators: Shaken Not Stirred

I always hear people have the same perception of curators, usually that they're some bookish woman with thick rimmed glasses. Hey, those are considered stylish now, right? I myself prefer to fantasize about a more artistic James Bond-ish male who wears fashionable suits to auction houses. But who am I to criticize other people’s visions? Anyway, when I got an email from one of my friends asking me to define the terms Curator and curating I put aside my dreams of well tailored suits, martinis, and English accents and came up with this response:

This is actually an interesting question because people often haphazardly use the term. In a traditional sense, a curated collection would be a grouping of art or artifacts that represent a specific theme, social trend, or movement. In recent years, maybe the past 20 or so, curating has become more of an anthropological exercise. The thought is that you can relate art to overarching social and political, rather than just stylistic, movements in order to reach a broader audience and shed light on a different perspective.

Historically art has been primarily curated by Curators, that is, classically trained Art Historians--think people who have gotten their Doctorate--and specialized in very specific periods or genres. Now, having said all of this, there is much room for interpretation. As the art world has changed, and with the Avant-garde being dictated by a younger grittier group of artists, this notion has also gone through a metamorphosis. Today it's not uncommon to see artists themselves curating and directing even major museum shows. Jeff Koons just infamously curated a show at The New Museum--he didn’t do a great job, but he did it, lol. This is also probably due in large part to the way we communicate now via blog and social networking. More people have become “experts” and personality and communication style have been given a higher regard.

In short, my definition of a curated show would be a one that is thoughtfully organized, with a cohesive stylistic and cultural message organized by an individual well studied and immersed in the creative movement they are trying to relay. Oh, and I tend to respect those curators who have some professional/classic art training as well.

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