Join us for our Industry Day In the Life: this time, we’re chatting to Gabrielle who is an Art Curator. Let us know whose day in the life you want to know about, and ASK ENID.

Let me introduce myself… My name is Gabrielle, I am 23 years old and an Art Curator. I studied a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English & Art History at the University of Sydney as well as having studied postgrad Art Curation at the University of Leicester.

My job in a nutshell…  the job of an Art Curator depends on three important things:

  1. Whether you’re employed by a commercial gallery
  2. Whether you’re employed by an institution
  3. Whether you’re independently curating

In brief:

If you’re employed by a commercial gallery your job is to curate aesthetic and conceptual exhibitions that will appeal to art collectors, the media and the art world in general. There isn’t too much pressure to increase accessibility to art and consumption as the ultimate goal is to promote an artists career and sell works to potential clients and collectors.

If you’re employed by an institution (an institution is a gallery such as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney or a University art gallery that usually has a large collection) your goal is to increase accessibility (i.e. make art accessible for the viewers), understanding as well as historical, social, cultural appreciation and relevance. The exhibitions need to be curated to tell a story, educate a viewer and compel a person to enter the gallery.

If you’re curating independently, the show can be more personal, more conceptual and far riskier — independent shows are usually where the real fun is! You have free reign to select the artists, put the show together and get your message across, whatever it may be (the funding is usually on you as well: grants, scholarships and self funding is the common route, where as with commercial or institutional curating the cost is absorbed by the gallery, however often independent curating is a necessity to build your experience and rep as a curator).

However, it can still depend on the target audience, of course. Whether it is public, corporate, or age group specific. (As an independent curator you can also be asked to guest curate at both commercial and institutional spaces!)

art curator

Portrait of Gabrielle (by Valentina Gulina)

What it will entail: scouting potential artistic talent (that means following various arts publications, attending openings – institutional and commercial, attending grad shows, using social media to follow artists and other curators), attending art fairs (national and international, think Art Basel, Hong Kong Art Fair etc) research and development of art exhibitions for future exhibitions, studio visits, professional developments for artists, management of either the artist stable or art collection (if working in an institution or commercial gallery), reading (and lots of it), networking, shameless self promotion, following market trends and creativity.

(There is a lot more to each form of curating and, everyone has their own individual take and approach to curating)

Skills you’ll need… Apart from good people skills and willingness to mix your social life with your professional life you’ll need hard and soft skills such as excellent writing and communication, problem solving, ability to work well under-pressure, independently and in groups as well as knowledge of Excel, Photoshop and the ability to be a photographer when necessary. Knowledge of the art market and trends as well as a keen eye for detail and a willingness to take risks. An art history background is necessary as well as English (philosophy is also helpful!).

It will also help if… You have some form of artistic background, painting, drawing etc. Although not an imperative I always feel you better understand an artist and their attachment to their work if you have a practical understanding of what goes into it. You also need to be willing to work pretty much everyday, the art world doesn’t sleep and there will be an opening almost every night, you’ll need to be willing to spread yourself pretty thin and be resilient enough to bounce back quickly with impending deadlines, events and etc.

This job is for you… If you live and breath art, love people and are willing to take a financial risk for the sake of your career and your passion. Walter Hopps once said to meet many people is the life blood of every curator. Networking is vital — there is value in every relationship you make inside and outside of the gallery! Cherish it!

Avoid this job if… You don’t like art, prefer to stay home than go out, are uncomfortable talking to people and if you struggle to time manage and multi-task.

My advice is… follow your passion, there are many careers in the arts, not just curating. You can be an arts writer, a conservator, registrar, public programs officer etc. You’ll find a lot of roles overlap into one another in the arts, so be prepared to be a jack of all trades! Most importantly explore your options, try everything and don’t be afraid to take a risk.

Check out Gabrielle’s website to see some of her cool art curating work!