Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.

Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.

20 January 2014

A Short Guide to the Consensus Curator Career Ladder; or Why All Shows Look the Same

First published October 15, 2007



It’s in the system, baby. You get that for which rewards are given. Here’s how it works, in list form.

1. If you are a curator in an out-of-the-way place, or at least want to climb the social ladder as a curator...

2. You have to memorize who is in the Very Important Shows by Very Important Curators, usually of the jet-setting, shoulder-satchel variety (curators who hold positions in several museums, anybody who helps with Documenta or the Venice Biennale, the Whitney, Migros Museum in Switzerland, The White Cube in London, etc.)...

3. Show exactly the same artists they do whenever as often as possible (Rhoades, Kilimnik, Tiravanija, etc.)...

4. Solos shows are great, but big group shows with the top o’ the pops consensus artists are better, because you get more “connections” for your buck...

5. Best of all, in a group show YOU originate ...

6. With other venues (then you get their help, you ensure a wider “global” effect and they owe you one)...

7. Make a catalogue with an essay by you (especially if you write so poorly that no real magazine or journal will publish you) ... and with as many other essays by other curators who you want to either impress or have them owe you favor (so they will put you in one of THEIR catalogues)...

8. That way the cost is split, too, among all the venues, you have a captured audience in the form of a guaranteed amount of sales of the catalogue to the venues (and with some luck to some public) thus getting a better publishing house and making a vanity publication appear quasi-genuine...

9. Most of the artists will thereby also come from a handful of Super Galleries (Gagosian, Hauser and Wirth, etc.), who have tons of money, and will give extra money privately for an new installation or custom video work or special catalogue piece or insurance, etc., by their artist(s)...

10. Then you also get to hang out with all the Big Consensus Curators and Gallerists at closed VIP dinners and super private pre-openings and so on ...

11. And they all owe you one ...

12. At these events and in the press you MUST be certain, though, to spout ALL the Accepted Truisms of the moment (ineptness is the true sincerity, Sonic Youth are your favorite music group, art has ended and it is all just nihilistic endgame now, Marcel speaks ex cathedra, tee-hee irony is philosophical, etc.)

13. Do NOT, repeat do NOT, ever openly question ANY consensus-accepted “truth”...

14. Never feature lesser known local artists, as it only helps the artists and art and actually hurts your curatorial career, as you appear to be to “provincial” and knowledgeable outside the prescribed borders, a potential danger to the Consensus ...

15. Never “discover” any artists as that will simply help THEM and while THEY will owe you one, the Powers That Be will NOT, thus they will look down on you ...

16. UNLESS you can find someone SO derivative of some accepted Consensus paradigm that they appear almost invisible or inevitable --- a limp, too much terp painter al la Peyton, a kitsch painter a la Currin, a junk-installer a la well-everybody, etc. --- a carbon copy, which proves to the Big Shots that you have appropriately memorized the rules ...

17. This discovering you indeed DO actually do every so often, but not very often, just to nail down proof of your group-think-commitment, and because the copyist artist then owes you ...

18. Do all this and you’ll eventually win a prize as a curator from other Consensus curators, thus getting you a better job in a better city, climbing the ladder one step at a time, maybe even a shot at Documenta, etc. ...

Any curator buying fully into the system must follow all these rules. Those not doing so are a gift from God and have a difficult life. THIS is why all shows look the same, have the same artists in them, from the same galleries. The structure of the situation allows naught else, or the curator will be at best mildly tolerated, perhaps even ignored by the Big Fellas. Celebrate it when you find it, but don’t expect courage. If you want a break from academic mannerism, then this locked-down arrangement must be broken open through criticism.

No comments: