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18 October 2017Last updated
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Ask the expert: I want to become a curator

To become a curator, you will need a master’s degree too

Sanjeev Verma
14 Apr 2017 | 10:55 am
  • Source:iStock

I am inclined towards fine arts and am keen on becoming a curator. What is the scope in this career and how do I go about becoming one?

A curator is a specialist responsible for safeguarding an institution’s collections and is involved with the interpretation of its heritage material and history. A curator is responsible for the safe keeping and artistic display of exhibits in a museum.

Unlike many art professions, to become a curator, education is nearly mandatory. In fact, for many positions out there you will not only need a bachelor’s degree but also a master’s degree.

Having said that, most curators did not study to specifically become a curator, however, they did focus their studies on fine arts.

They need to have an eye for detail and aesthetics and how best to convey a message and vision through the various pieces of art.

Something else they all have in common is a passion for art and creative expression. Like most art careers, being a curator is probably not an office job; it’s a lifestyle.

So while you may know early on that you’d like to be a curator and go directly into curatorial programmes, there is nothing wrong with taking art history or biology courses and then taking a step into exploring a different career.

As an aspiring fine art student, you will have to maintain a portfolio. This may include your original work, photographs, slides or digital images of paintings and sculptures, personal notebooks, short videotapes or CDs and drawings.

Universities look for students with the ability to engage in critical and inventive discussion, and a strong visual curiosity. Besides your portfolio you will have to have an arts subject in your final grade, if not it is advised to take a year-long Art Foundation course, to build a strong base and skills needed in the subject.

You do have the option of complementing your arts education with training or an apprenticeship as well. The right education should provide a unique approach to the study of art and its markets, giving students a clear understanding into the business of the art world and the key elements for successful art enterprises.

Curators can choose to pursue different areas of work, such as art, science and natural history and students should choose a major that’s relevant to the type of museum they intend to work in.

An aspiring art museum curator may consider studying fine arts or art history, while a future historical museum curator may consider studying anthropology or history.

Over the past decade the profession has become fairly popular and today various courses in fine arts and degrees for curators are being offered by universities and educational institutes. Institutes where you can follow your passion include Bard College, Columbia University, RCA, London and École de Magasin.

An interesting development is the training institute developed by Sotheby’s, the famous auction house. They have executive programmes, short-term courses and master’s programmes for those interested not only in becoming curators but also in establishing business enterprises.

It will also provide you with the right network required to leverage your career. At master’s level the core courses allow students to gain a depth of knowledge and experience in their programme’s discipline as well as exposure to a breadth of related subjects through a wide variety of electives. Some of these areas include art law, marketing, auction practice, valuations and collections management.

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Sanjeev Verma

Sanjeev Verma

is a leading international education counsellor