The 8 As of Curating an Art Show

So you want to be an art curator? How should you do it and where to start? That would be the common questions that you will be asking. The good news is, you do not need a formal academic qualification to be an art curator because what you need essentially would be some exemplary skills and a lot of persistence and of course, a strong passion for art.

Art curators can be engaged to a gallery or an art space or they can operate independently but there must be a starting point. The best way to start is to learn from the best and attend as many exhibitions as you can to know what to expect.

If you are good, you will be able to raise the funds needed for a show but it would be easier if there is a gallery who is willing to help. Below are some of the tips that you will need.

An Idea
This is perhaps the most creative part of the process. What you need before starting is to have an idea. The conceptualizing of the idea is crucial because it will determine what type of art work you will be sourcing for and from which artist.

The most ideal way to start is to conceptualize a group show because that will give you a variety of artwork. Look at this as a theme that you are working on. Try not to encircle a show around an artist. Instead encircle the artist around the show. Then work your way out and determine which artist will fit your theme.

This stage will require you to have a strong and effective mission statement. Once you have your theme and the artists involved, you can branch out into other important issues like space and such because you will then have to work on the dates and reservations.

Once you have got the theme, you must talk to the artists whom you have selected. This is where you need to confirm their participation in your show and how many art work they will be sending to you. This is very important because it will help you to decide on how much space you will need which will then determine where you can have the show.

Area and Logistics
Run through a list of possible art spaces for your intended show. Then visit the spaces and galleries to check if they are appropriate. Most of the galleries will provide you with the floor plans where you can organize the art work.

When you have decided which art space to use, you must then conduct space management. This is a crucial step in the process which requires experience and creativity. Once you have got that out of the way, it is time to book the space.

Discussion with the galleries would be important as you need to negotiate the amount for rental or any other schemes between you both. Then set the opening and closing dates. Ensure that you have ample time from the current day to the date of the exhibition for everything to be in place. The biggest challenge in this stage is to ensure that the artwork from the artists are delivered on time, which means you need to follow up without being too persistent.

And then you need to work on the invitees. You need to understand who will be coming to your exhibition. Collectors would be your first priority. Work out a guest list with the gallery and then make sure that they receive their invites. From there, you must also include other artists, art schools and the public in general.

Allocation of budget
As an art curator, planning your budget is very important. This is because you need to start looking for funds (if you haven’t already done so) to finance the show. In some cases, the gallery would be undertaking the cost while in other cases, you will have to find sponsors and any others who could help in financing the exhibition.

Funds are needed for the exhibition to take place because you will need to pay for the artists’ fee, rental, overheads and promotional materials among others. in some cases, there might be modifications and alterations to the space depending on the artwork while there are also other considerations like handling of artwork, framing and installation which would all require monetary payments.

Advertise and promote
Advertising and promoting the show is the next challenge. This include not only printing of brochures and placing of advertisements in magazines and newspapers but also writing an effective press release. Apart from that, you will also have to publish the catalogue for your show. If you are not very good in writing these materials, it is essential that you find a professional art writer to do so.

Then work out where you want to advertise. Use the television, radio or any other channel possible. Printed invitations must be sent out to the important people which must be followed up with a telephone call.

Assisting programmes
Prior to the actual show, conduct assisting programmes which can help to create the buzz. Workshops, dialogues, press conferences are some of the events that can be carried out. Ensure that they are planned about 2 to 3 weeks before the show so that people are aware of what is coming up.

Art opening
And then comes the grand opening. Whatever you have done before this has led you and the people to the show. You do not want to disappoint them. You must ensure that the VIPs are identified and be treated well during the show. If you are going to be running around, ensure there is someone who will be looking into their needs.

Conjure up a list of events during the show like a quartet band or a mini auction to engage all your guests. Engage an established MC (Master of Ceremony) who will introduce the artists, the important people in the show and yourself, the curator.

Serve light refreshments and allow the visitors to mingle and enjoy the art work. Remember, the show is about art and let the people enjoy it. One factor that you must consider is not to be overly busy with the logistics of the day. Be around to answer questions or to mingle with the crowd. Introduce the artists to the visitors and occasionally, check on the food, artwork and ensure everyone is having a good time.


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