A curating collective’s guide to curating a collection

Preparation Therapy for the Aspiring Curator

How to remain sane when collectively curating a collection

Below we present a composition of advisory points, derived from our experience of curating Partial Presence, an exhibition presented with the Zabludowicz collection as a part of Testing Ground 2015. Partial Presence was an exhibition that involved ten student curators from The CASS and Goldsmiths MA Curating, who together were given the opportunity to work with the vast Zabludowicz Collection of contemporary artworks. We had three months to plan and execute the project and through this experience we have learned more than we could have anticipated.

Beware of artist abandonment

Consider equally the content and context of a work

Avoid forgetting its pre-collection history

A thumbnail leaves a lot to the imagination

Never over-estimate/underestimate the scale/aesthetic quality of a

collection work

Read details

Look closely


Do not develop emotional attachments to the work

It is not yours

Taste is always involved

Accept it

Don’t over-conceptualise

Or do… but don’t expect every conceptual detail to translate fluently

to your audience, nor should it

A concept is a tool (sometimes)

Don’t predict outcomes

Question them

A collected artwork is a collected artwork

All are equally precious

Come prepared to alter your value system accordingly

Some artists are

Very picky/demanding

How shall I put it? … Indecisive?



Allocate speaking time

When your time is up, it’s up

Prioritise things realistically

Don’t question yourself too much

The collective voice can easily and unnecessarily overpower the


But allow yourself to be questioned and don’t take it to heart

Think about the collective good, rather than individual preferences

Keep an open mind

Abandoning one idea means space is made for another

There is not sufficient room for egos or selves in the curatorial collective

It’s about cooperation not competition

Develop a talent for reading and responding to emails daily

What you thought were petty issues are no longer petty issues

Remember, this is a collective project

Don’t take too much or too little responsibility

Your conduct affects a lot of people

It’s not only about you

Know your strengths weaknesses (and other people’s)

There is always more work to be done than you think there is

Don’t settle too comfortably into relaxation.

Conduct yourself knowing that you will meet again professionally

The show is not over when they say it’s over


Written by Eilidh McCormick, Anna Viani and Emma Warburton, three students of the MA Curating the Contemporary course at London Metropolitan University and the Whitechapel Gallery

Eilidh McCormick graduated from Grays School of Art with a first class honours degree in Sculpture in 2014. Having moved here from Scotland to study she is also working as an Intern at the Cynthia Corbett Gallery with the Young Masters Art Prize.

Emma Warburton graduated with a BFA in Painting and Drawing from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Having resided in Asia for the past four years, she is now studying in London, while simultaneously maintaining an art practice involving small site-interventions in the city.

Anna Viani graduated in Performing Art Management at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy. After a short working experience in Austria, she moved to London to continue her studies in Curating. In 2012 she co-founded the curatorial collective Something Human with which she collaborated until December 2013.

All images courtesy of Emma Warburton

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