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Curating an Art Show in 10 Easy Steps - A Step by Step Guide for Art Curators

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Conceptualize Art Exhibition
Curating an Art Show in 10 Easy Steps - A Step by Step Guide for Art Curators

Curator conceives of an art exhibition idea first when curating a show.

Photo © John Lund / Digital Visions / Getty Images

In today’s art world, you do not need to be a museum staff member to curate an art exhibition. You could be an independent art curator and work -- that’s right -- independently.

A curator’s job is like a movie director’s in that you need to oversee every detail of the production so it helps to be extremely organized and that you can work well with others as it takes many skilled people to put on an exhibition.

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but various methods. Here is one simplified process to put on an exhibition from start to finish. If feasible, give yourself at least six months to arrange all the necessary details.

Conceptualize

For many curators this is the fun and creative part of the job. Think of the idea and overall theme for your exhibition. Write a mission statement. What is the purpose of your exhibition: a survey show, a showcase of new talent, a cross-cultural exchange, an illustration of a theme or topical issue?

Before you begin, you need to think through every exacting detail and leave nothing to chance. This requires a lot of preliminary research on your part.

For Beijing-based independent curator Kwanyi Pan who has curated exhibitions around the world, she recommends to research the country's artists and audience, to understand the environment you are working in and what subsequent issues may arise. She says working as a curator in Asia is different from working in the west in that the social context is “totally a money-driven phenomena.”

Select the artists for your exhibition. Will they make new works which adds to your budget or will they exhibit older works? Are you working entirely with local artists? If not, will you need to arrange travel, accommodation, and visas for your visiting artists?

Where is the exhibition site? If it is in a museum or gallery, how much will they sponsor? Is it in a traditional gallery space or is it in alternative venues such as public parks and shopping arcades? Will it travel around by taxi?

Consider intriguing juxtapositions between art works. Create an interesting dialogue amongst the works and the audience. Walk through the space in your mind; is there a logical flow between the works? Will the audience understand what you are trying to convey?

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