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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Curate a whole new world

Srishti Jha , Hindustan Times   April 07, 2013
First Published: 01:26 IST(7/4/2013) | Last Updated: 01:29 IST(7/4/2013)

The world of curation has grown beyond the field of art. Curation — the act of hiring a professional to make educated aesthetic choices and selections — is now emerging in a number of new fields.

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So, there are curators for food, technology, fashion, home décor, cinema, music, festivals, even content for seminars and online platforms.

New practitioners are emerging to meet demands in these new areas of curation, and say it is a welcome change.

“In recent years, curation has grown dramatically because the access to, availability of, and amount of content both online [blogs, video, audio, images etc] and offline [food, clothing, retail products, even people] has dramatically grown as well,” says Pawan Deshpande, CEO of Curata, a company that specialises in curating content.

“These days anyone can create and share content. This is a blessing because we now have access to many more perspectives and ideas than before. But it’s also a curse because we are also faced with an enormous amount of irrelevant low-quality content,” adds Deshpande. “With the exponential increase of content online, there is a greater need to curate and bring to the surface the best and most relevant content.”

The word ‘curate’, its derived from the Latin word curare which means ‘taking care’. In the traditional context, a curator was responsible for selecting and interpreting works of art and art organisations, heritage material and  cultural objects. Today, curation has taken over across creative fields. It has become about putting the right things in the right place at the right time.

“This is a much-awaited development,” says culture critic Ashok Vajpeyi. “Anything that is made for people to appreciate and examine can’t be left to emerge amid an amorphous and random selection of events or things. The vision for relevance also refines the taste of the viewer and leads to appropriate ideas and works emerging.”

Home décor is one area where curation is catching on fast. People who love to do up their homes are depending on design curators for suggestions.

“Zansaar.com’s curation programme is an extension of our desire to personalise the shopper’s experience,” says Jawad Ayaz, CEO of e-retail portal Zansaar.com. “As part of this program, we ask people to put together a collection of products from our website in accordance with a theme or idea. When we first started this program, we invited artists, designers, architects, chefs, bloggers and entrepreneurs to share their curated collections on our site.”

Adds interior designer Arjun Sodhi, “Interior designing and interior curation are distinct areas. Curation comes into the picture in home décor, when you are presenting every idea and object you picked and designed as one artwork in a picture-perfect setup.”

Curating meals and ambience is another recent trend. A high-profile wedding or customised party at a multi-national company’s seminar, for instance, is not only about spotting the right menu or food trend but also about putting together the apt culinary package to the taste and likings of the end users.

“Food curation is a new concept in India, but it’s definitely making a mark now,” says Suresh Hinduja, food curator and founder of gourmetindia.com, a social network based around food. “In this field, one has to understand people’s demographics, tastes and choices.”

Hinduja says he has been approached by companies to manage complete packages, from food to wine, plating and ambience.

“We have always known of curation as related to art, but now this idea works in a similar manner for food,” he says. For weddings, for instance, he is often asked to present curated buffets.

“I have to select vendors, cuisines, presentation, a mix-and-match, for example, in terms of putting together a high-end Japanese meal and a traditional Indian delicacy. It has to be well placed and it is here that the idea of curation enters the arena of food.”

Music curators are also aiding collaborations between different artists, merging elements to create music projects or performances.

“It’s about curating art in form of music and performing arts,” says Vivek Banipal, music curator and director of Soul Curators. “And since the world is our stage, literally, curation is a huge business for brands now as it adds an element of exclusivity.”

Institutions such as the Khoj artists’ association, Jawaharlal Nehru Univer-sity and the Film and Television Insti-tute of India (FTII) have been encouraging courses related to curation too.

“Curation is the natural evolution of critique,” says Indranil Bhattacharya, film curator and professor of film aesthetics at FTII. “Curation as a field is worth promotion. It is just that curators these days should only become influential in defining a trend or an idea if the user opts for value and genuine appreciation, else this positive development will have a negative impact on the creative space.”

Fashion goes hand-in-hand with curation too.

“Curation is a vital aspect of the retail industry today,” says Pernia Qureshi, curator and director of Pop Up Shop, an online fashion store. “No one has the time to look around these days. They want it all done for them. I have noticed that when curators at a store change, the customers also change.”

Qureshi says people often shop at a particular venue because it caters to their sensibilities. “The art of curation is what creates this sensibility,” she adds. “It’s about getting the right eye in order to get the perfect look. A customer too eventually wants a whole look, not just a dress or an accessory.”

The rise in demand for various types of curation signify a return of the mainstream media’s idea of filtering. Says online expert Prasanto K Roy, “Curation has brought back the process of filtration to restore credibility and reliance.”

Most of all, it means that for the end consumer, there is less chance of being deluged by information and confused rather than pleased by choice. “Names that are becoming known and accepted are beginning to serve as curators,” says Roy. “That way, credibility is higher too, and the chances of suitable opinions and guidance are higher.”


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