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‘Curator’ - Case Study 1

Until recently curating had not been a job in which I had heard much about, but after putting together our exhibition “FUSED” at the beginning of this year, myself and three others took on the roll of organising and curating the exhibition. 

It was not an easy task in which to partake, many issues with space, how much people wanted to show and how they wanted to show it, it was hard to balance what was possible with what each person wanted without being unfair to another, but overall it was an enjoyable experience for me, learning how to create that balance. Showing each persons work through the best possible way. 

From this I volunteered as one of the curators for our next exhibition in London, which has now been postponed until next year. Being the sort of person who likes to be organised the roll of curating gave me a sense of understanding the balance between what is possible when working with multiple people. I also found myself enjoying the pressure and people coming to me to solve problems. 

Since the exhibition another inspiration into, looking at curation as a possible career path was Alexandra Leithbrige, who came and gave a talk to my course at university.  Leithbrige is not only a photographer but had worked on installations, in many different places with different people. Through listening to her talk about all the different exhibitions she had helped set up and create as separate art works, excited me more into looking in depth at the idea of possibly being a curator for a gallery. 

A curator is a normally seen as a manager, overseer or custodian of a collection such as a museum or gallery.  Curators of exhibitions are overall responsible for developing a concept for the programme, exhibitions or events. Which includes exhibition, publications, travelling shows, off-site projects and cultural excursions. They may work alone or with others with the sole responsibility of the collection they are given to work with or exhibit, the curator is in charge off:

  • Implementing and developing a cohesive vision with artists. 
  • Engage with new diverse audiences. 
  • Educate. 
  • Managing and directing.
  • Conducting original research -conducts research based on the collection, and shared their research with the public.
  • Negotiating with artists.
  • Supervise installations.
  • Monitor exhibition budgets and expenses. 
  • Collaborate with director and others in the creation of the exhibition. 
  • Publicity materials and public programs.
  • Packaging and transportation of the items. 

A curator normally works within the field or collections that are relevant to their higher education. In my case within photography, they are more often than not expected also to have contributed to that field. Highlighting on the importance that the curator has knowledge of the collection markets for their area of expertise. 

Within the current corona virus situation this role would not be widely needed in galleries as they are currently closed due to the lock down regulations. As people may not be able to socially distance at a gallery or exhibition depending on the space and amount of people that come at one time to view the work. 

However, there are online exhibitions and galleries popping up on social media platforms for artists wanting to still show and share their work, also galleries wanting to share exhibitions to show they are still there and making the best out of the current situation. 

An average earnings a year for a curator: 

  • Starting salaries - between £12,000 and £14,000 (Post graduate, first job curating etc) 
  • Second or third job - between £18,000 - £20,000
  • Top amount - up to £40,000 

I would be getting paid by the gallery in which I would be working for and depending on the location and how well known it is would depend drastically on what I could possibly earn. Majority of big curating jobs are within big cities such as London, Liverpool, Manchester. Depends on what sort of galleries to work in or where want to work in general. There are smaller galleries, less well know within towns. If I considered this as a career path I would try to get a job in a bigger city gallery but due to no prior experience other than university exhibitions would probably be better to start in a smaller town gallery and work way up gaining experience, to then be able to get a better curating job in London which I could always commute to from where I live. Depending on where a job opportunity that I would consider would come up means I would not be against the idea of moving for work, if it was ideal and what I was looking for. 

In second year I remember having a talk given to us by Karen McQuaid, who was a curator of “The Photographers Gallery” in London which was the first time that curating had been talked about to me. At the time I remember being very interested in the idea or prospect of working as a curator in a big gallery in London such as “The Photographers Gallery” due to it being a big city not far for me to commute too from my home. The prospect of working in a photography only gallery as well excited me as it would be ideally what I would want to do, rather than a mixed arts gallery for example. Mainly due to the experience within my photography course. This would take a lot of time and experience to build up I feel to get to a position such as McQuaid’s, but its is an area that I am still very much interested in and would be ideal to contact people such as Lethbridge and McQuaid for advise on going into this career path prospect. 

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