front cover of Curating As Ethics
Curating As Ethics
Jean-Paul Martinon
University of Minnesota Press, 2020

A new ethics for the global practice of curating
 

Today, everyone is a curator. What was once considered a hallowed expertise is now a commonplace and global activity. Can this new worldwide activity be ethical and, if yes, how? This book argues that curating can be more than just selecting, organizing, and presenting information in galleries or online. Curating can also constitute an ethics, one of acquiring, arranging, and distributing an always conjectural knowledge about the world. 

Curating as Ethics is primarily philosophical in scope, evading normative approaches to ethics in favor of an intuitive ethics that operates at the threshold of thought and action. It explores the work of authors as diverse as Heidegger, Spinoza, Meillassoux, Mudimbe, Chalier, and Kofman. Jean-Paul Martinon begins with the fabric of these ethics: how it stems from matter, how it addresses death, how it apprehends interhuman relationships. In the second part he establishes the ground on which the ethics is based, the things that make up the curatorial—for example, the textual and visual evidence or the digital medium. The final part focuses on the activity of curating as such—sharing, caring, preparing, dispensing, and so on. 

With its invigorating new approach to curatorial studies, Curating as Ethics moves beyond the field of museum and exhibition studies to provide an ethics for anyone engaged in this highly visible activity, including those using social media as a curatorial endeavor, and shows how philosophy and curating can work together to articulate the world today.

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Curators
Behind the Scenes of Natural History Museums
Lance Grande
University of Chicago Press, 2017
Over the centuries, natural history museums have evolved from being little more than musty repositories of stuffed animals and pinned bugs, to being crucial generators of new scientific knowledge. They have also become vibrant educational centers, full of engaging exhibits that share those discoveries with students and an enthusiastic general public.
 
At the heart of it all from the very start have been curators. Yet after three decades as a natural history curator, Lance Grande found that he still had to explain to people what he does. This book is the answer—and, oh, what an answer it is: lively, exciting, up-to-date, it offers a portrait of curators and their research  like none we’ve seen, one that conveys the intellectual excitement and the educational and social value of curation. Grande uses the personal story of his own career—most of it spent at Chicago’s storied Field Museum—to structure his account as he explores the value of research and collections, the importance of public engagement, changing ecological and ethical considerations, and the impact of rapidly improving technology. Throughout, we are guided by Grande’s keen sense of mission, of a job where the why is always as important as the what.
 
This beautifully written and richly illustrated book is a clear-eyed but loving account of natural history museums, their curators, and their ever-expanding roles in the twenty-first century.
 
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In Search of a Lost Avant-Garde
An Anthropologist Investigates the Contemporary Art Museum
Matti Bunzl
University of Chicago Press, 2014
In 2008, anthropologist Matti Bunzl was given rare access to observe the curatorial department of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. For five months, he sat with the institution’s staff, witnessing firsthand what truly goes on behind the scenes at a contemporary art museum. From fund-raising and owner loans to museum-artist relations to the immense effort involved in safely shipping sixty works from twenty-seven lenders in fourteen cities and five countries, Matti Bunzl’s In Search of a Lost Avant-Garde illustrates the inner workings of one of Chicago’s premier cultural institutions.

Bunzl’s ethnography is designed to show how a commitment to the avant-garde can come into conflict with an imperative for growth, leading to the abandonment of the new and difficult in favor of the entertaining and profitable. Jeff Koons, whose massive retrospective debuted during Bunzl's research, occupies a central place in his book and exposes the anxieties caused by such seemingly pornographic work as the infamous Made in Heaven series. Featuring cameos by other leading artists, including Liam Gillick, Jenny Holzer, Karen Kilimnik, and Tino Sehgal, the drama Bunzl narrates is palpable and entertaining and sheds an altogether new light on the contemporary art boom.
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Inside the Lost Museum
Curating, Past and Present
Steven Lubar
Harvard University Press, 2017

Curators make many decisions when they build collections or design exhibitions, plotting a passage of discovery that also tells an essential story. Collecting captures the past in a way useful to the present and the future. Exhibits play to our senses and orchestrate our impressions, balancing presentation and preservation, information and emotion. Curators consider visitors’ interactions with objects and with one another, how our bodies move through displays, how our eyes grasp objects, how we learn and how we feel. Inside the Lost Museum documents the work museums do and suggests ways these institutions can enrich the educational and aesthetic experience of their visitors.

Woven throughout Inside the Lost Museum is the story of the Jenks Museum at Brown University, a nineteenth-century display of natural history, anthropology, and curiosities that disappeared a century ago. The Jenks Museum’s past, and a recent effort by artist Mark Dion, Steven Lubar, and their students to reimagine it as art and history, serve as a framework for exploring the long record of museums’ usefulness and service.

Museum lovers know that energy and mystery run through every collection and exhibition. Lubar explains work behind the scenes—collecting, preserving, displaying, and using art and artifacts in teaching, research, and community-building—through historical and contemporary examples. Inside the Lost Museum speaks to the hunt, the find, and the reveal that make curating and visiting exhibitions and using collections such a rewarding and vital pursuit.

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Using and Curating Archaeological Collections
S. Terry Childs
University Press of Colorado, 2019
All archaeologists have responsibilities to support the collections they produce, yet budgeting for and managing collections over the length of a project and beyond is not part of most archaeologists training. While this book in the SAA Press Archaeology in Action Series highlights major challenges that archaeologists and curators face with regard to collections, it also stresses the values, uses, and benefits of collections. It also demonstrates the continued significance of archaeological collections to the profession, tribes, and the public and provides critical resources for archaeologists to carry out their responsibilities. Many lament that the archaeological record is finite and disappearing. In this context, collections are even more important to preserve for future use, and this book will help all stakeholders do so.
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When Artists Curate
Contemporary Art and the Exhibition as Medium
Alison Green
Reaktion Books, 2018
An increasing proportion of exhibitions are curated by artists rather than professional curators, and in this book Alison Green provides the first critical history of visual artists as curators. Green’s curatorial artist emerges as a seemingly contradictory figure: someone who carries a special responsibility for critiquing art’s institutions, for bringing considerable creativity to the craft of making exhibitions and, through experimentation, someone who has changed the way exhibitions are understood to be authored and experienced—but at the same time, someone who is curiously ubiquitous.

Rather than portraying artist curators as exceptional or rare, Green establishes the fact that artists curate all the time and in all kinds of places: in galleries and in museums, in studios, in borrowed spaces such as shopfronts or industrial buildings, in front rooms and front windows, in zoos or concert halls, on streets and in nature. Seen from the perspective of artists, showing is a part of making art. Once this idea is understood, the story of art starts to look very different. Beautifully illustrated and featuring in-depth explorations of the work of revered artist curators like Daniel Buren, Goshka Macuga, Thomas Hirschhorn, Rosemarie Trockel, Hito Steyerl, Andy Warhol, and Félix González-Torres, When Artists Curate will change the way we think about and look at exhibitions.
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