Tall Tree and an Eye by artist Anish Kapoor – © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

The Man in the Middle

On the curator’s private and public engagements

The museum and the private collection: a relationship that is deeply intertwined and in constant negotiation.

At the interface of these two establishments that influence the art world in their own way, one often encounters the curator. This savvy and vital “middleman” frequently shifts between the two worlds, in charge of building up ties and fostering “friendships“ between the public and the private. Therefore, a common phenomenon amongst curators is to have two strings to one’s bow. Besides advising public institutions, many simultaneously work for private collections - an employment situation that certainly comes with its own challenges.

In a recent article published on Artslant, Ryan Wong discusses the “art world’s intrinsic conflict of interest when it comes to curating the private collection with the public trust”.

Wong notes that it seems to be the case that private art collections are increasingly entering the educational side of the art world – a position that thus far foremost museums have held. Today, private collections and initiatives are offering promising routes to young ambitious collectors to enter the highly competitive and institutionalized art world in an alternative way. Examples therefore are the residency program for young curators by “Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo” or the initiative “Pool” founded by Beatrix Ruf. The latter gives young curators the chance to create exhibitions from artworks from private art collections, perceiving collections as contemporary sources rather than rigid assemblages of personal taste.

Private art collections are in this sense entering the realm of the museum, shifting traditional structures and “actively shaping the public’s relation to art”. Surely, this is a beneficial development in many ways, but it also requires curators to be aware of their responsibility when it comes to connecting public, private establishments and negotiating conflicting interests.

Tall Tree and an Eye by artist Anish Kapoor – © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

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