Let’s face it. Artists are terrible at curating their own work.
There’s no way you can be objective. You love everything, you hate everything, you want to show everything you have, or you don’t want to show anything at all.
Today’s article is inspired by an email I received from Karen Meredith, in which she wanted to know about the proper number of works to have on a website, in an exhibition, or at an open studio. I promise to discuss those details in next week’s article, but first let’s talk big picture.
If there is a sweet spot for the number of works you should show, you still have to whittle down the inventory. You must be a curator of your work.
Curate is a hot term online these days. Everyone is talking about the value of curating content.
But you and I know that curating art goes way back. To curate art means that you select, organize, care for, and make sense of the work. Got it? A curator:
- Selects the art
- Organizes or arranges the art
- Cares for the art
- Makes sense of the art
The Role of a Curator
Curators – whether they’re paid museum staff, volunteers, independent, or otherwise – are a necessary part of the art ecosystem.
Most juried exhibitions are weak because there is no curator. The work is only selected from what was submitted to the juror(s). There is no say in what ends up being submitted and no time or designated person to make sense of a bunch of disparate works.
Juried exhibitions weed out work from submissions. They subtract.
In contrast, curated exhibitions start with nothing but a curatorial thesis based on knowledge of what the curator has observed across a wide range of gallery visits, articles, and conversations.
Curators research, review, study, and select the best examples to support that curatorial thesis. They add.
Don’t get me wrong! Juried exhibitions serve their purpose, particularly for the emerging artist. But it’s vital to understand the difference between what a juror does and what a curator does.
The First Step
Just as in the examples above, most artists start selecting art for an exhibition by looking at everything they have available and then taking out work. There’s a point in the process when you must remove certain pieces, but it’s not at the beginning.
The first step in curating your art is to start with a piece or two that best represent what you’re trying to communicate. After you’ve done this, you can build your exhibition or Web page around that piece.
If you find you have too many in the end, you can start subtracting.
Next week I’ll discuss ideas for curating your work based on a curatorial thesis or theme.
Until then, I’d love to hear about the struggles and triumphs you have when faced with curating your art. Just leave a comment here.