Hans Ulrich Obrist was on BBC R4 – Are we all curators now?

Hans Ulrich Obrist was on BBC R4 this morning discussing curating. An enjoyable conversation about the change in use of the term ‘curator’. You can catch it on iPlayer later.

I’ve been thinking and writing recently about how everyone curates, online, offline and on the shelves and walls of their homes. Partly because I am interested in how the meaning, and action of, curating has changed so much. There was a time when curator – meaning ‘to care’ – was only heard within the hallowed walls of museums. Then contemporary art adopted it.

How things have changed since then, partly through the internet. (The press are shouting about 25 year of the internet – they mean the world wide web.) So the www began in 1989, 3 years later the first curating MA started in the UK:

In 1992, the Royal College of Art established an MA course co-funded by the Royal College of Art and the Arts Council of Great Britain, the first in Britain to specialise in curating with a particular focus on contemporary art. The course is now funded by Arts Council England, and in 2001 the course title was amended to Curating Contemporary Art to more accurately reflect the content and primary focus of the programme.  Wiki

By the early 2000’s there was a flurry of curated exhibitions about curating. It appeared it was no longer necessary to have artists work in exhibitions, because the curators became the most important people in the art sector. It was worrying, particularly for artists. Degrees and post-graduate courses were introduced, whilst some curators profiled their names on publicity posters for exhibitions, instead of the artists, in the shows they were curating. I recall that happening in Bristol and the artists rebelled – the poster had to be redesigned at the last minute, and rightly so.

The term curator is used very loosely these days – anyone can curate art, images and stories online, or websites on Scoop. We are all temporary guardians of ‘things’, both real and virtual. When someone arranges objects on their mantelpiece or windowsill they are curating their family history, their holidays, their wealth, their heritage.

Are we all curators now?

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