Qualified Curators

I’ve just been pondering the curator, a curious animal. Or at least that impression grows on me the longer I think about them. There are people who have a real affinity for art but for whatever reason don’t want to practice it—they might be collectors, gallerists, critics, curators, but mostly just plain viewers. Artists love these people because without them nothing could happen. In a way, art is made for them. I’ve never had any complaints about curators in general, but it occurs to me today that a degree from Bard or the Royal College curating program doesn’t necessarily qualify anyone to recognize art when they see it. Of course the question is what exactly is to be recognized, and a curator can only function in relation to some generally understood consensus about what art is. Three positions are possible: within the consensus; outside of it; or—to follow the pattern of the technology business—measured innovation that extends the consensus. But the possibility remains that art has absolutely nothing to do with any consensus. Logically that means outside, but since the eighties at least all languages have been equally available. Inside and out have no meaning for an artist today, or shouldn’t have. Art can be neither yes nor no, but something completely apart. It might be possible to turn this insight into a teachable concept, and it might be possible to make work to order from that concept, but the ability to recognize art is still not guaranteed by a degree, neither is it supplied along with a job. Those who do have a feel for it are unlikely to be found in university anyway. It has to do with art’s freedom, which must be unqualified, and without responsibilities.


The Guggenheim’s Nancy Spector instructing curators at a training program in Manhattan

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