Untethered, sometimes by choice, sometimes by force, from the work of managing the discrete collections of major institutions and galleries, today independent art curators are highly mobile, often extremely influential actors in the world of art. Their tastes and networks color virtually every aspect of the art world, from who is exhibited and what is sold, to the contours of artist-to-artist networks and the shape of “important” conversations about art. You’d be hard pressed to find a role in the art world that a curator somewhere, in some way, is not filling - they conduct research, work with museum and gallery collections, develop exhibitions, represent institutions, discover and represent artists, broker art deals, write press releases-- all this in addition to a range of para-curatorial activities — like organizing screenings, lectures, and events like this one today.
And despite the increasingly precarious economic position of curators as institutions shed their in-house staff in favor of independent contractors, some curators have seen remarkable advances in their artistic agency, which leads to new questions about the difference between a curator and an artist, and the fluid relationship between the two.
In his book On the Curatorship, Boris Groys says: “When it comes down to it, the contemporary curator does everything the contemporary artist does. The independent curator travels the world and organizes exhibitions that are comparable to artistic installations – comparable because they are the results of individual curatorial projects, discussions, actions. The artworks presented in the exhibitions take on the role of documentation of a curatorial project.”
So what does this mean for artists? How do curators navigate this ethical minefield?
Curators Anna Akpele, Sarah Higgins, Erin Jane Nelson, and Iman Person discuss the state of the curatorial gesture in 2019. Panel moderated by Discrit. Discussion to follow.
Event audio below: