How curators work with artists

Sometimes an artist can find themselves in a show a couple of months after a visit from a curator, often though it can be a couple of years. This is why it is crucial that artists keep a curator up to date with what is happening – the relationship needs to be maintained and developed.

The curator starts to flesh out a show, keeping in touch with the artist(s) as the exhibition develops. Meanwhile funding is sought and logistics put into place, all the while allowing the artists’ work to be at the forefront of the thinking process whilst allowing the show itself to gain momentum. This is, ultimately, a shared project. A curator will struggle without the support of the artist, and the artist needs to know that they and their work will be properly represented.

Approaching a freelance curator differs from approaching a gallery or gallerist. A gallery will have a dual job of supporting artists, managing and nurturing clients and keeping the bank happy and the bills paid. They will, or should , have a very particular angle – their USP or ‘unique selling point’ in marketing terms – that differentiates them from the crowd and the curator or gallerist at will be in part directed by the clients ambitions.

A freelance curator will be funded from different sources (curating fees, teaching, research, writing) as well as through project based funding. An exhibition can take a while to get underway, simply because of the time it can take for funding to be in place. Freelance curators will also have a particular direction and interests, possibly specific (e.g. digital media, socially engaged practice) but will most definitely know what they like or don’t like very quickly.  A curators taste is honed through experience and taste, much as a gardener will know what they like to grow and where and when.

© Lucy Day


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