Through conversations and case-studies, this book examines the phenomenon of the curator in contemporary art, seeking to define as precisely as possible his development, attributes, and activities – in other words, to elucidate the nature of »species« we are dealing with in this professional category, and to explain its development.
To do this, the book looks at the curator within the context of contemporary capitalism, for this is his »natural habitat«. It finds that the curator has emerged, over the past few decades, in conjunction with the ever-expanding infrastructural and financial support system of contemporary art, the primary purpose of which is to ensure the optimal and freest development for art and for artists. But at the same time, this system has turned into a special economic system (parallel to the original market economy), whereby, among other things, a need is created for a large number of people who can manage and organise this economy of »apparent artistic autonomy«, distribute the funds allocated for this purpose, and so forth. It is here that the curator has been able to assume his role, in particular, as someone who possesses two very different and quite contradictory sets of skills – managerial and artistic – which he combines in his work and which enable him to manoeuvre between artists on the one side and today’s funders of contemporary art on the other. Generally speaking, this duality seems to be constitutive of the curator’s work. To put it bluntly, it is the means by which the curator manages to meld together the interests of those who commission art, who support it because of the economic, social, and ideological benefits they thus receive, and art itself, which as a rule declares itself to be entirely opposed to such interests. The curator, then, organises art into attractive and profitmaking events, while at the same time he remains the primary »keeper of the cult«.
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