Rant 92: Uncaring Curators

Rant 92: Uncaring Curators EJ Major love is... (0103), 2004 - 2008

The idea of the curator is evolving. Curators can commission, select, organise, write, edit and create, which is a good and exciting thing. But do they still care?


Wikipedia defines the word curator as ‘from Latin: curare meaning "take care"’. We expect a curator to care about art, to think about it and how it relates to the world, to care about the people who make it and the people who might come to look at it. 

Most of the curators I’ve worked with have been just like this, and a joy to work with, but I have also had my fair share of shoddy treatment.

I’ve turned up to galleries to install my work and just been left to get on with it, without any sort of conversation about it and without being offered a cup of tea I might add! Not to mention the time that my works were left to languish in an exhibition, only to be returned sun-faded and covered in cobwebs and dead spiders, without even a note of apology.

We’ve all heard horror stories about projects with no budget and therefore no artist fee, so the participating artists have to not only pay admin costs but also travel halfway across the country to install and de-install their own work. 

These shows generally exhibit work by large numbers of artists and are often put on in venues unreachable by regular modes of transport. The marketing of these exhibitions also leaves a lot to be desired.

It’s as if the curator/s just want to show as many artists as they can, without any curatorial conversation or engagement. It’s as if they don’t care, and if this the case, can what they are doing really be called ‘curating’?

After all, it seems to me that in the end nobody visits these exhibitions, no better shows come out of it and it won’t really look THAT good on your CV. So what is the point in going to all that effort for people who really don’t care? You might as well organise your own exhibitions (not a bad idea).

My advice is this: if the curator won’t talk to you, don’t get involved!


Contributed by Lesley Guy, July 2013

Lesley is an artist, writer and curator based in Sheffield. She is a Content Curator at Axisweb.

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