Curators, Their Personal Attributes, and Modes of Practice: A Historical Comparison
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The contemporary art curator's role is one that appears to be so radically different from its immediate forebears. Were there precedents of curatorial practice I have wondered that would lead to a greater understanding of the contemporary art curator? In a rather speculative way I consider two 'curators' (though neither described themselves as this), working approximately 400 years apart: Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605) a scholarly collector from Bologna and Seth Siegelaub working in New York (1967-1972) as an 'exhibition organizer'. While the differences between the two figures' life histories are of course considerable, there are nevertheless curious similarities in their personal attributes and approach to the shared enterprise of exhibiting objects. To undertake this analysis, I draw firstly on scholarly historical accounts of Aldrovandi as well as my own observations during a recent visit to view the remains of his collection in Bologna. In addition I undertake a discursive analysis of an interview I conducted with Siegelaub, and draw on Siegelaub's published journal articles and other scholars' writing on the emergence of conceptual art in New York. Despite the asymmetric nature of this comparative study, and despite the disciplinary differences in the nature of the objects, they each exhibited, I propose there are many similarities of practice that can be brought to contribute to a greater understanding of the phenomenon of the contemporary art curator.
International Journal of the Inclusive Museum
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Creative Arts, Media and Communication Curriculum and Pedagogy