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Heart for art?

A curator is an art content specialist who conceives exhibitions and builds an archive, gallery or a patron’s collection.

education Updated: Feb 08, 2012 12:44 IST

The lowdown

A curator is an art content specialist who conceives exhibitions and builds an archive, gallery or a patron’s collection. Curators are required to keep up with the art scene, source art pieces, spot new talent and present art with special insights gained through research and cultural awareness.

In such scenarios, they are able to express the intent of the show in a wider set of facets marketing, public relations, online promotion, design etc.

Just in terms of skills, the profession requires loads research ability, networking and negotiation skills, and a zillion more. Curators usually only conceive exhibitions while others also organise the event.

In some cases, they can do both because when these two (conceptualising and organising) come together, there’s greater engagement. An aspiring curator must be curious, enlightened and well-rooted in the traditions of the land.

Clockwork
8.30am: Check mails, read art journals, online resources
10am: Call gallery to book space
11am: Meet an artist for coffee, discuss possibilities for a show
Noon: Meet corporate house for a collection they want to build
2pm: Have lunch with gallery owner, discuss rates
3.30pm: Check on production design of upcoming show
6pm: Visit visual arts exhibition launch
8.30pm: Stay on for the after-party to network
11pm: Head home, catch up on reading

The payoff
Independent curators work from show to show. While debutants might not get anything more than credit for curating an exhibition, established professionals can earn Rs 25,000 to Rs 10 lakh per show.

Like any freelance professional, prepare for lean periods, especially when the art market is down.

Skills/Traits
Undying passion for the arts
Keeping up with the dynamic international art scene
High degree of cultural and social awareness
Ability to set the context for art and its presentation
Networking skills
Ability to sell abstract concepts to patrons
Tenacity to follow through on original idea for show
Creative thinking
Hunger for knowledge

Getting there
At the bachelor’s level, you can go in for an art history course at an Indian university. History and cultural studies offer other routes to entering the profession. At the master’s level, you can pursue various advanced arts courses or specialised curating courses, though none of the latter are available in India.

An academic course is the starting point. Reading through a broad spectrum is essential. Cultural studies, too, are a key segment. An aspiring curator must be curious, enlightened and well-rooted in the traditions of the land in which s/he is.

Institutes and URLs
Royal College of Art, London www.cca.rca.ac.uk
Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi www.jnu.ac.in
Kingston University, London www.kingston.ac.uk
Manchester Metropolitan University www.artdes.mmu.ac.uk
Goldsmiths, University of London www.gold.ac.uk/pg/mfa-curating

Pros and Cons
Creative line of work
Being part of an ever-growing arts fraternity
Travel all over the world

With a lot of people getting interested in art, it is emerging as a very significant industry with great scope for curators.

Sushma Bahl, art curator based in Delhi