The role of a curator cannot be simply defined by their ability to create an exhibition. Although this is a fundamental aspect of their job, curators are challenged with the more arduous tasks of fulfilling the needs of the artists, the public and the gallery on an equal level. Furthermore, curators are required to safeguard art heritage, explore new artists and medias, and display works of art in a way that is accessible and elicits a response from the public. Fundamentally, however, curators work in collaboration with artists and the public to create an experience for art collectors and enthusiasts that cannot otherwise be achieved by either party.
Understanding the community
The curator’s role begins as early as researching the needs of the community where the exhibition will be presented. Curators cannot merely present a single community with repeated styles of art. It is crucial that the curator spends time understanding what the audience has seen, what they respond well to, and what they haven’t had the opportunity to experience yet. Together with this task is the need to research trends in the art world. What are artists producing and what artworks best suit the needs of the audience the curator is working with. This early stage is crucial to creating a memorable exhibition that will leave the public hungry for more eye opening art experiences.
Planning the exhibition
It is then crucial that the curator creates the opportunity for the exhibition to take place. This process involves ensuring that pieces can be acquired, creating a budget for the exhibition, choosing an exciting venue and producing appropriate advertising to bring people out to the exhibition. The curator is also understood as the chief administrator of the exhibition. They must organize all the finances, including: paying the artists, the gallery, the shipping and handling, the advertising, the invitations, the printing of marketing materials and endless other tasks. They need to ensure that as many people as possible are made aware of the exhibition. Posters are made, press releases are held, catalogs are produced, television and radio announcements are made. When all this is organized, they have to make sure the art arrives safely, is handled properly upon arrival to the gallery and is displayed in an evocative way. And the list goes on…
A curator is therefore not purely a collector and presenter of art, but a sociologist who can read their city’s needs and create a meaningful experience through the work of artists. Artist David Shrigley stated that one of the most memorable exhibitions he’s been to was filled with “a lot of bad art…, yet it was still fantastic”. The individual pieces are therefore not the focus of the curator, but the experience as a whole. Curators are the conductors of the art world. A single violin can capture an audience, but a symphony working together creates an emotional and moving experience. The curator helps the artist realize the power of their work by coordinating a collection of works that compliments and legitimizes each piece.
Artlink Canada's current curated exhibition "Visions of Fantasy"
Artlink Canada’s current exhibition “Visions of Fantasy” features three artists and an array of surrealist art. These pieces work together to create a dreamlike experience for its audience while reflecting the dichotomy of the real and the surreal. Lauren Matsumoto’s collages remind you of the ubiquity of nature and juxtaposes the finite characteristics of technology with the everlasting qualities of nature. Johnie Thornton’s blue figures create the feeling of being restrained by a stronger power; perhaps a reflection of the limited nature of the real world in comparison with the dream world. Finally, Bruce Pashak’s works demonstrate the fine balance between illusion and reality and forces you to realise the power of perception and imagination.