Easy answer. Yes, yes and yes.

We have been taught that art first came from humans’ necessity to express their individuality and communicate with each other. An artist is overwhelmingly motivated by the desire to create, in whatever artistic profession he or she is operating within. David Throsby, a cultural economist, said the artist is ‘driven’ from this desire. He would then go on outlining a complete economic model based on this statement.

To the critic Angela Vettese, artists are receptors. Society imprints itself within artists, who give – or better are “driven to give” – an interpretation of society through works of art. In this way whatever object, even ugly, common or abject, acquires an aesthetic and social function (or in-function), that helps build on what sociologist Theodor Adorno called a ‘cultural critique’. However, I was sceptical when I saw a chair exposed at the Tate Modern. A formal artwork, not one invigilators would eventually sit and take a nap on. I guess sometimes the artist likes to give a perverse interpretation of ones surroundings.


Gabriel Orozco, Empty Shoe Box, 1993

This is where our ‘super-hero’, the curator, comes to the rescue. Certainly it is his duty to disclose artists’ obscure messages to a wider audience, that would be otherwise groping in the dark. Everyone with a bit of reason must agree that our society is very eclectic nowadays. Considering we stated that art carries an interpretation of society, the more varied it becomes, the more varied art becomes in turn. This is the reason why so many (too many?) ‘super-heroes’ are around. The development of art in the ambience, other than the two-dimensional canvas, made the presence of a curator necessary to mould space and works of art together as well. He is the technical and interpretative support, someone who analyses the context and conveys it in the right way to ease the understanding of the public.

Writers and critics, especially the witty ones that don’t mince their words (and we love for that), ought to be mandatory to the whole process. They are a check against the ‘ruling’ curatorial practice and against Daniel Buren‘s despised commissaries , “authors of exhibitions” in which artists’ intent is completely overtaken and replaced with their individuals aims. Writers also help filling gaps curators may leave, or give more side information to the public. A friend of mine, prior to visiting an exhibition, would examine all the articles regarding it and read up on the artist(s) featured in it. Is not that enough to say some people really need a writer to write?

Artists will produce works as long as they feel the compelling urgency to express themselves. As dependent, curators and writers will keep on doing their part. However, more can always be said. I would like to leave it to you, dear readers – Hey, is there any? –  because I am still looking for the perfect answer and I have unfortunately reached my word limit!

Caterina Berardi

7 thoughts on “Should artists make art, critics write and curators curate?

  1. Interesting read, though with the use of strong language as “super-hero”, do you not feel this is over emphasising the role of the curator?

  2. I meant it in a sarcastic way, that is why ‘super-hero’ is quoted. I think curators can be both, a good or the worst thing ever to an exhibit.

  3. Pingback: Art, what’s the hype all about? | Jake Brown

  4. If you are separating the role of Artist and Curator (separating them from collaboration) then would you separate Artist and Audience?
    Doesn’t the audiences’ experience add to the work? What if the work is only made once the Audience participates?

    Johannes Cladders (in conversation to Hans Ulrich Obrist) mentioned that his role as curator was to transform “a work into a work of art”. This would indicate collaboration.

    • I did not mean to separate artist and curator. Their collaboration is necessary to produce an exhibition.

      Still I think that the only one who produces art is the artist. What is the concern of a curator is precisely to connect audience with the works of art, by creating – if you want you can intend this process as artistic – a context that can better convey their meanings.

      • You make a good point.

        However, when is it classified art? Is it as soon as its made or when it is presented to the public?

        Curating isn’t just curating. The traditional boundaries are being pushed further and further. Artists can also be curators and curators can also be artists. Is there a difference any more, or is it just another subcategory of “art”?

        Its interesting as to where these boundaries lie. Are there boundaries at all?

        If you are an artist then as a curator you can use the fact that you are an artist and curate with the artists best interest in mind. Where as if you are a curator and you create art, you can be more aware as to how the public and institutions interact to the work.

        Maybe there is a boundary, but should we be forcing this on others?

      • Thanks for all these considerations, I mostly agree with you.
        I just find disloyal and pretentious for a curator, trying to overwhelm artists’ interpretation – of their own creations – and shaping it into something else.
        If that does not happen, they can work together to produce something new and wider.

        One can be both, curator and artist, and curating is surely an artistic occupation.
        Nevertheless, this does not mean that a curator IS an artist. Can be considered as – whenever he/she conceives ideas that result in successful exhibitions, or in a signature curatorial practice (was it what you meant?).
        Curators are like directors. One do not call them artists, even if their movie was amazing.

        Regarding the question “when art is classified as such”?
        It’s a question I keep asking myself. Still haven’t found an answer, just many theories (too big of an issue to be discussed here).

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