Marketing Mondays: A Curator is Missing

If you are reading this in Google Reader, please click here to go to my blogsite, where you will find more than just this article. Thank you.

No, this is not a police emergency.  But a

curator  may be   missing   from your

announcements and  resumes.  This post,

like many, was  inspired   by what came

across my desk recently.

In an email announcement, Artist A listed all her upcoming shows, three of which were curated. I love the way we now have the tools to promote ourselves to a receptive cohort. But something was missing from her exhibition listings: the names of the curators.  

Artist B sent out a postcard with an image of his painting, which is included in a curated group show. I appreciate that he took the initiative to spotlight his work within the context of the  larger exhibition. He smartly included the names of all the other artists, but in what I think was a mistake--or at least a breach of art world etiquette--he left off the name of the curator, something the official exhibition postcard did not.

Artist C--that would be me--was compiling the gallery notebook of artists' statements and resumes for a show I'd curated. I was surprised to see a name missing from the exhibition on several artists' resumes: my own. Uh, your work didn't get into that show by magic.
Consider the role of the curator
Whether artist, independent, or institution-affiliated, a curator has viewed the work of dozens of artists to arrive at the selection of artists whose works then become an exhibition. Curating a show is as difficult and as time consuming as creating a solo show. If you don’t leave off your own name from an announcement—and I know you don’t—it is inexcusable to leave off the name of the curator. 

Curators remember this oversight. “I have a shit list with the names of artists who did not have the courtesy to credit me,” says an independent curator who, for obvious reasons asked to remain nameless. “I work every bit as hard conceiving and creating my shows as artists do with theirs. If an artist doesn’t respect my effort, I am not likely to include their work in another project.”  Moreover, says the curator, “we talk among ourselves, just like artists do. No one wants to have their efforts disrespected by omission.” 

Artists and independents, particularly, work for little or no pay and most handle everything involved with the show, including the onerous administrative tasks. Some assume the added responsiblity of a catalog. 

A few tips
Informal conversation with curator and dealer friends has allowed me to glean these nuggets:

. Include the name of the curator on your resume and all printed material about the exhibition. Yes, I have heard the occasional dealer tell artists that it's not "academic form" to include curatorial credit. Well, this is not academia. The more popular opinion is voiced by the academic curator who encourages her students to give "credit where it's due."

. It’s understood that dealers curate the exhibitions in their galleries, so it’s not necessary to acknowledge that, but if they curate a show in another venue and you’re in it, include their name as curator

. Relatedly, sometimes you’ll see a gallery crediting its director or principal as having “organized” a show in the gallery. It’s likely that an organized exhibition falls outside the parameters of the usual gallery-artist show, which means that more curation is involved. It’s also a way to acknowledge the work of a gallery employee who has assumed the organizational role in the show. If a gallery credits the organizer, you should do the same

. If you have curated a show, put that listing under “Curatorial Projects” or similar category on your resume, rather than under “Selected Exhibitions.”

. If you have curated a show you’re also  in, it’s OK to include your name in both places. But if you're in the habit of putting yourself into every show you curate, you will diminish your credibility as an artist and curator. (Every art professonal I talked with mentioned this as an issue.)

As always, your comments are essential to this conversation.

In a related Facebook discussion, the issue of acknowledging jurors came up. Juried shows and curated shows are very different.

. A juried show is selected by a hired juror who make selections from a pool of submissions. Usually the artist has paid to submit their work. The juror may be a curator, but she may also be a dealer, artist, academic or other art professional. She must make the best possible show out of what she is given. Given the size of the submission pool and the conscientiousness of the juror, the job may take from a couple of hours to a day or two. Based on the size of the show and the prominence of the juror, and whether or not there's a catalog or essay, it's your call whether or not you put the juror's name on your resume. My opinion: curators and dealers, you put on; the local artist jurying the local show, not necessary.

. A curated show, on the other hand, begins in the mind's eye of the curator. The curator conceives the entire show and then makes it happen, a process that may include online research, studio visits, copious emails with each prospective artist, a vetting process and decision making, more communication, gathering of support materials, shipping, installing and more. The curator should certainly be listed, even if she's Josephine Schmo from East Podunk. She made the effort and took the time to include your work. If you can list the exhibition title, you can include her name. This or that art professional may tell you otherwise, but when you consider the vision and effort involved in the curation of a show, it's foolish and boorish not to. 
If you have found this or other Marketing Mondays posts useful, please consider supporting this blog with a donation. A PayPal Donate button is located on the Sidebar at right. Thank you. (Or click here and scroll down the sidebar


Zoƫ said...

Curators keeping a "shit list"? Why not just ask politely that the offending artists include their name? Sometimes an oversight is exactly that - an oversight.

I always try to credit the curator in my promotional materials and announcements, but I had no idea that it was common courtesy to include credit in one's resume as well. I'll be correcting that of course now that I know.

Holding grudges helps no one. The curator remains uncredited and the artist remains ignorant. Let's all stand up for ourselves so everyone wins.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. If's it OK to create opportunities for yourself as an artist, but it is not OK to curate yourself into the shows you are creating for yourself, then what do you do to move your career forward?

Isn't there a point that you just have to say "I'm doing this anyway," despite what the "art profesionals" say?

Christine said...

I always include the jurors and curators names on my resume. When I send out e-vites I usually list the exhibits followed by a hotlink to info about the show which references the jurors and curators. Are you saying that in the body of the e-vite, when listing several shows in which we have work, we should also be listing the curators/jurors? I thought by including a hotlink that it referenced them without making the body of the e-mail too wordy. Would you suggest then listing the exhibit and then parentheses and the curator(ie "textility"(curated by Joanne Mattera and Mary Birmingham))?

Joanne Mattera said...

I like your concept of "everyone wins". The curator with the "shit list" has been curating for well over 20 years. If we assume that the curator has had this conversation with artists and that some still "forget" to acknowledge or take the curatorial effort for granted, we would be correct.

Anonymous: You're reading selectively. Of course we create opportunities for ourselves as artists, and curating is a great opportunity. But what I said was: if you're *in the habit* of putting yourself into *every* show you curate you will dininish your credibility. By all means put yourself into a show you curate (I'm doing that right now myself in a show in Provincetown in June) but if the only shows you're in are the ones you've curated, the subtext is that you can't get into exhibitions any other way. There are many ways to move your career forward, and they are the subject of four years of Marketing Mondays here on the blog. Curating is one way, but it shouldn't be the only one.

Anonymous said...

It's not just curators, galleries maintain lists of artists they will no longer work with too.

For the non-profit gallery I work for, the worst offense an artist can make is to not be interested in what the gallery is doing.
If chosen for a group show, it is expected that the artist will respect all deadlines. They will attend the opening and greet the curator and staff. That they will return to the gallery and view other shows that they are not in and that they will not unsubscribe from the gallery e-mail list. Also, please keep us informed of what you as an artist are doing.

The artists who maintain an interest in the programs of the gallery will be considered for future exhibition opportunities. Those who don't will not. Basically, we like to maintain relationships with the artists we show.

Joanne Mattera said...

Anonymous gallery person: Thank you for weighing in. This is exactly the kind of information artists should be aware of. (And it ties into one of the underlying themes of these MM posts: We are in this together.)

Christine: In my opinion, the curator's name should be right there next to the title. A hotlink is great, but if a show has a title and a curator, include both. (Listing jurors is a different situation, in my opinion. To have your work juried you have to submit your work; the juror selects from a defacto pool. To have your work curated into a show, you may be unaware that your work is being considered until you are contacted.)

Christine said...

I had no idea. Okay then, moving forward that's what I will do. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Another point here is how venues are listed. If the show is a juried show, then it should be listed as such along with the curator's name. There is a very big difference between having work selected from a pre arranged pool of artists, say from some sort of artist collective (which the curator did not select) for exhibition. In this scenario, the curator is paid a fee to select what they feel is the best work from this pool. This is very different than having an independent curator select work of their own choosing for exhibition. This specially holds true when a museum or gallery rents out their space to a arts group for an exhibition. While being selected for any exhibition is a wonderful thing, listing yourself as having been in a museum exhibition under these circumstances is not a truthful representation of the exhibition opportunity. Credit should be given where it is due and it should be recording appropriately.

Anonymous said...

I used to include the curators' names on my resume but was then advised by an "art coach"--who teaches at a local well-respected art school and offers classes advising artists how to write their statements, resumes, and other print material--to leave them off. I followed her advise but now it sounds as if I should put them back on.

As for curating oneself into shows, I do tend to take shows less seriously when the curator includes their own work in the show. It seems overly self-promotional to do so, though I understand that if one curates a show, it's because the theme probably relates to one's own work. Maybe it's just a choice of either fully donning a different hat or compromising some of the perceived purpose of the show.

annell said...

Wonderful post, as always!

donna said...

Like others here, I was misguided in thinking that including the name of the curator was either not necessary, or somehow made the resume look less professional. I hope to remedy this without the list looking too wordy. What about museum shows, that are curated by the museum's curator? Should their name be included, or is it understood and extraneous to list their name? Thanks Joanne.

Oriane Stender said...

Hmm. After reading this post I took a look at my resume. I have credited maybe half the curators. I think how detailed one's resume is should be customized for the context. On your website, you could list everything, every show, every venue including curator, etc. But if you're sending out a resume (even electronically), the resume shouldn't be so long and detailed that the reader's eyes glaze over at the sight of a thick block of text.

I take any opportunity to cut down on the verbiage in the resume. But if there was a catalog to the show, the authors (who are usually the curator(s) are listed in the bibliography section.

I don't have time right now to discuss this in depth, but I'm going to check back later. I'm curious about this and it didn't occur to me that I was dissing the curators who I've left off. (Duh! Everyone likes to be acknowledged for the work they do, so I don't know why this hadn't occurred to me.) Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Joanne.

Rounder Studio Stuff said...

Not to brag, I list my jurors and curators on my CV.

Joanne Mattera said...

Rounder: Brag! Brag!

Donna: In terms of crediting, I look to see how the exhibition is credited and/or promoted by the institution. If a museum show notes that it has been curated by a museum curator there, by all means put it on. (Also, I wouldn't assume a curatorial given. There are often several curators, so different curators within the institution may be working on different projects.)

Maritza said...

I was also advised by an arts professional to leave off names for juried shows; I then carried that over to curated shows once I was included in those exhibitions. In addition, I was in one show that was "un-curated" (long story), but it was a pivotal moment for me, so I have included that in my resume. In that case, I've been concerned about how it gives un-earned credit for being associated with a certain gallery. Joanne, I think sometime in the last week you must have mentioned you were working on this post, because I have been thinking about it ever since. :) I went into my CV online on Friday night to start making corrections.

I wish there was some sort of "style guide" for these things. Above all, I want to get it right, to honor people's work, and I certainly don't want to profit from people's work without giving them credit. How do I word juried shows vs. curated shows? Do I describe their credentials for those who may be unfamiliar with their work (chief curators at Oakland Mus. of CA- now retired!- as well as chief curator at Berkeley Arts Museum/Pacific Film Archive). (<-- oh dear, very wordy...)

I'm bummed out I was advised to leave names off my CV. However, I am recalling it is not just something I was told by the one arts professional; I have been told this by others as well, and I think I have (possibly) read this advice in other arts business advice articles. It may have been from the perspective of a gallerist, not sure. In any case, I am quite sensitive to wanting to do right by people, so I certainly have not made these decisions without consideration.

Thank you so much for this post!

Joanne Mattera said...


Your comment and a FB thread I've been following prompted me to post an addendum to the original post.

As for credentials, I don't think they're necessary. You're singing to the choir.

Janna said...

Thank you for your pearls of wisdom Joanne, and for starting that interesting conversation. I really appreciate everyone's comments regarding this matter.

Your blog is so helpful for emerging artists like myself. I am so thankful for your generosity in sharing your knowledge.

Anonymous said...

A very timely post...

I recently curated an exhibition, admittedly in a place that I knew was problematic in terms of how many people would actually see the exhibit and how much, if any, press I could stir up for it...but, I did go to the trouble of hiring an essayist, making sure there was a website for the show, etc., etc. I felt I did everything humanly possible to leave a record of the exhibit, and make an exhibit the artists would be proud of...

In a conversation (post-opening) with one of the artists I included in the show, I found out that she sent out her own press release...without talking to me first or even showing it to me. Additionally, she invited other curators and collectors to view her work in the show without including me...this wouldn't necessarily be a problem...you expect artists to promote themselves, but by excluding me, she created a pretty strange perception of just who was responsible for the exhibit!

In any case, she has made me sorry that I ever included her in the exhibit...definitely won't ask her again!

Nancy Natale said...

I was also told by someone in a class that addressed artists' documents that including the names of curators on my resume was not professional so I took them off. I'm glad that you posted this because you make perfect sense - as usual - and now I'm going to put them back on.

It seems to me that including important jurors would also be OK.

As someone who has organized shows (meaning curating plus installing and doing everything else necessary to get the show off the ground), I can well understand that curators deserve credit for their work and are pissed when they don't get it.

Allen C. Smith said...

Good one, Joanne. This one raises my hackles. I had to sleep on it before making a comment.

As purveyors of taste and controllers of artist’s lives, curators have a spotty reputation. The fact that some keep “shit lists” is no surprise to me. I keep a shit list of curators. Of course, I must be very secretive about that, because if they learned of my list, I’d never get a show in this town again. And, if I find out about their lists… so?

Early in my career, I served as a curator at an art museum in a smaller city. Never was I credited on an artist’s resume for awarding them a solo or including them in a group exhibition. I left the museum and opened a gallery. Rarely was my gallery credited.

I have always kept a master file resume with all the details of curators and jurors, seldom shared. Being one who believes that multi-page resumes are boring to read and usually filled with fluff, I have tried to be succinct in mine.

I’ve just checked in my artist marketing books. Only one demonstrates the inclusion of curatorial credit (but doesn’t discuss the concept at length). The practice has not been mentioned in any of the professional practices programs in which I have participated.

I’ll have to rethink this practice, but I want the curatorial community to remember we resent their dismissals and insensitivity toward our work.

Thank you, Joanne.

Oriane Stender said...

Allen, you have a right to express your opinion, but I have to say that a curator reading your comment might put you on the chip-on-the-shoulder possibly-difficult-to-work-with list. I'm not saying this as a criticism, but just so you know what impression you're giving.

Diane McGregor said...

I use the phrase "curated by" even if the show is a juried show; technically, all shows are carefully selected and "curated."

Joanne Mattera said...


You are mixing apples and oranges, and I don't think that's a good idea. A juror selects from a pool of submissions--many being works s/he would never select under different circumstances. S/he creates a show from the best of what comes in. Describing a juried show as "curated" diminishes the curatorial process, though I can see that it would elevate the juried show.

Ideally, there's a progression from juried shows to curated, the idea being that after a certain point, an artist no longer needs to "submit" but is sought and chosen.

There are exceptions, of course, but the average juror spends a few hours with the work, makes the selections and leaves. Curating is a career.

Diane McGregor said...

Good point, Joanne. I didn't think of that - especially that the juror wouldn't necessarily select any of the artists chosen from a given pool of entries. Thanks for enlightening me. I always appreciate your info and wisdom.

Peg Grady said...

I've always felt that curators' names should be listed on resumes but against my better judgement left them out, following the "wisdom" of various art marketing books. Looks like I wasn't alone in following wrongheaded advice. Thanks for straightening us out.

Anonymous said...

And what about a curator who constantly includes his own work in the shows he curates?I know one of those all too well.