Yuliya Vaganova

The closed and “open” Ukrainian topic or who should pay whom in the art world and how?

If barter between artist and gallery is underdeveloped and primitive, then what can one say about the relationship between curators and galleries. Who is the curator and what do you do with him? Why is he needed and what type of barter is possible?

The direct meaning of the world curator is someone who manages or oversees. However, the direct translation from Latin today doesn’t fully describe the function of a curator of an art project. You can name different definitions and different functions that are ascribed to curators depending on the country, type of institution, etc. I especially like the short definition of a curator as “content specialist.” What’s the situation with “content specialists” in Ukraine?  

My practice has shown that a curator was at times and continues to be confused with a manager or a project coordinator. Therefore, he was given only technical functions. And at times, a curator’s obligations are given to coordinators.

At times, the person who wrote the text/article or simply the press release to a project was considered the curator

Sometimes attempts are made to delegate leadership functions to the staff curator, and accordingly the salary in this situation depends on the person’s leadership qualities and not his curatorial skills. The misunderstanding of the role of the curators and his functions provokes galleriests to the simplest and foolproof “use” of the curator. If such a fashionable word exists and every project should have a curator, then “we have to hire one.” By the way, personal exhibits - and most “projects” in Ukraine are personal exhibits - can easily be held without a curator. But we can’t call things what they are, and so every kiosk is a hypermarket and every project is curatorial – the curator’s function is another issue. Because developing a project, finding artists, and building displays are such minutia, then there’s probably no sense paying for them. What’s so difficult about hanging works of art? There are lots of artists – what’s so difficult about choosing? And as for a project idea – something fashionable, or scandalous, or attractive, best to be “about underwear” because nobody’s interested in lofty matters. But then what are we paying curators for???? Just for that sad page of text that’s called the concept??? That’s why the gallery starts throwing the functions of manager, dealer, PR manager, etc. on the curator.    

If uniting a curator and artist in one person, if we’re talking about an author’s project, then the function of “curator” is simply crossed off by gallerists. Moreover, at times the staff curator’s “personal” concept is added to an author’s project, which clutters the author’s idea. No need to comment on the results.

Personally, this situation is somewhat strange. I know very few curators in Ukraine, and I can count the good ones on one hand – commercial galleries should be “fighting” for curators. But this isn’t the case, probably for these same reasons - the underdevelopment of the art market and the audience.     

H: What’s it’s like to work as a curator?

Y: You mean, what kind of work models exist between a curator and a gallery?

H: Yes.

Y: If you like a certain curator’s projects and you’ve seen several of them, you can invite ths curator to work on a project for your gallery, trusting the curator’s taste. You can propose a certain topic for the project and ask him to develop this topic by creating a project. You can invite a ready-made curator’s project. You can announce a competition for the best curatorial project. You can invite a curator to join your staff to develop a series of projects that match the mission and goals of the gallery and will promote the achievement of these goals…

H: So, how exactly do they work together?
Y: What do you mean?
H: Do you have to pay them?

I’m trying to find something positive in the abovementioned dialogue, thought it’s rather difficult. Nevertheless, the gallerist asked about the curator and perhaps tried to figure out who’s to pay whom.




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