What is a curator?

According to Wikipedia, the word curator comes from the Latin “curare”, which means to “take care of”, and a curator is a manager or overseer. The word “curatory” (a curator is a member of a curatory) can also be used to describe a supervisory body, an advisory board, a school governing body or (generally) a board of trustees.

In terms of photographic art, we can concentrate on two meanings:

The curator of a museum

In museums, a curator is responsible, for example, for expanding, maintaining and developing collections. Their job is to maintain the emphasis of the collection and develop it further. A curator will frequently organise exhibitions, and their main task is to deal with artists and their work and test or evaluate their artistic or societal value.

The freelance curator

Organisers/creators of exhibitions are described as freelance curators. They are often tasked with organising exhibitions with specific themes or in specific areas of art. They are responsible for selecting, acquiring and presenting/setting up the exhibitions, as well as managing the artwork.

It is not uncommon for several curators to join together and form a curatory that evaluates the importance – the artistic value – of artwork. This is often attributed to the future potential of an artist, in relation to their personal, artistic and value-creating career.

Recognised curators and gallery owners are therefore an important point of reference when determining and researching the price of contemporary and modern art. Curators are often the people who discover young artists, recommend them accordingly within their network and are thus decisive in their career.

The work of curators is discussed extremely differently. Some curators favour students of acknowledged masters or graduates from certain colleges. Others, however, assess artwork based on an arbitrary selection of work to be evaluated.

Curators: a curse or a blessing for art?

The main tasks of a curator can be highlighted by the following questions:

  1. Who is the right artist for the respective customer?
  2. For what price can this artwork be presented, purchased or put on the market?
  3. Which piece of artwork is best suited in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, or on a wall in its wealthy owner’s luxury villa?

What is advertised or valued as art is an important factor to the curator. Curators are generally wooed by artists. The direct influence of curators on artists, the art scene and styles is not known, but it can be insinuated.

At this point, the wheels are set in motion. Curators network with artists, investors, museums and galleries. For many photographers, they form an exclusive door to fame, recognition and financial reward.


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