Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The curator’s egg

At a time when directors of art museums in  NZ have slid into more strategic and management roles, the job of curating has been largely left to the…er…curators. And it is a job under attack from all sides. 

From the left, the education department is pushing hard on how to develop appropriate experiences for specific audiences and how those experiences should be framed via labels, audio tours and public programmes. Coming from the right, the design department has removed curators from any physical contact with the work they select and has made the presentation of work its own area of professional expertise. And of course from all directions comes the marketing department with opinions about everything and the conviction its audience research ensures it always knows best. The curators have also played a part in their own relegation thanks to the comparatively recent concept of curating a single artist's installation (as in ”I am curating artist X to do a solo installation in Venice.") when in fact on many occasions they are just along for the ride. 

Then there is the elevation of the activity of choosing in the wider culture that has also played its part with people out there ‘curating meals’ in a restaurant, ‘curating the product in a store and ‘curating the news’ on TV. The old museum curatorial triumvirate of choose, present and preserve has been pretty much worn away with the 'choose' part just hanging on by a thread.

But, if you’re still keen to have a go, there are a number of university courses you can buy into here and the University of Auckland even has Ian Wedde, who developed the rationale behind Te Papa’s curatorial style, as a lecturer in its Art History department.