Curatorial Practice: Curating Contemporary Art

Today, everybody is a curator—we supposedly curate our meals, our social media feeds, and our outfits. But what does it mean to curate exhibitions of contemporary art today? This course examines the working processes of organizing exhibitions within the field of contemporary visual arts and the context of art institutions. The aim is to familiarize students with various aspects of exhibition-making ranging from conceptual development to the physical realization of exhibition. This course introduces to and engages students in a broad spectrum of exhibition presentations and institutional contexts, with a focus on different exhibition typologies, ideas of audience engagement, curatorial responsibility, working with artists, questions of history and the contemporary moment, and risk-taking. 

This course offers an opportunity for students to learn the basic theoretical and practical parameters of curating exhibitions. The course will be organized around case studies of major exhibitions organized by both Eva Respini and Dan Byers at a broad range of institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, ICA/Boston, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard, and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, as well as those curated by select guest lecturers. Together, we will explore?various curatorial methodologies and strategies for a variety of exhibitions typologies including monographic, thematic, collection presentation, biennial, performance, media-based and interactive projects, artist residencies and new commissions, performance, and nontraditional sites for exhibitions including the public realm and publications. We will also look at social practice and alternative or artist-run spaces. Through readings and discussion, viewing assignments and journals, field trips, and guest lectures, we will critically analyze the role of curators and art institutions, and examine the ways contemporary art and its reception in exhibition engages with broader social, cultural, and political issues.

Throughout the semester, students will develop ideas and parameters for an exhibition proposal culminating in a final group presentation that will include a proposal, preliminary list of artists, an exhibition design, and work plan. Instructors will alternate teaching classes, with a few key sessions taught together. Additionally, some sessions will take place at Boston-area museums and arts organizations.