BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors

Are Artists the Better Curators?

On the diminishing boundary between professions in the art world

What do Gustave Courbet and Damien Hirst have in common apart from their prominence as artists? In a recently published article on The Art Newspaper website, author Pac Pobric highlights how Courbet and Hirst both not only followed their artistic talent but also took up the role of curators and entrepreneurs of their own work.

In 1855, it was a clearly avant-garde move for the “proudest and most arrogant man in France”, Gustave Courbet, to organize his own exhibition during the French Exposition Universelle in Paris - consisting only of his own work.

Throughout the 20th century, the artist-as-curator has become a more common appearance, with entrepreneurial skills becoming part of the educational roster. This is best exemplified by the 23 years old art student Damien Hirst, who in 1988, organized his own art show Freeze and made sure, important collectors and art professionals would attend. This show clearly marked the beginning of his career.

Today, the “artist-curator” is a common phenomenon. But why has this professional self-entitlement of artists become so popular? In his article, Pobric gives various explanations for this. First of all, powerful organizations such as the French Beaux-Arts regime have lost their influence and the definition of high art has decentralized. With the increasing pluralization of society, also the conceptual practices in curating have diversified. Furthermore, artist-curated shows as opposed to curator-curated shows have the ability to be subjective and free from institutional constraints or rigid art-historical categories.

By now, the issue of artists-as-collectors has received wide recognition in the art world. This is amongst others observable in this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach Conversations program, with experts discussing the phenomenon. Also London’s Hayward Gallery regularly includes artist-curated shows since 2009.

The diminishing boundary between artistic and curatorial practice is also shown by how curating at times enters the artistic realm. But amongst artists, curators who perceive their work as art “rub some the wrong way”. The author doubts that the idea of curator-as-artist will properly establish itself and gives some interesting examples.

Amended Image by Thorleif Wiik via Flickr; CC Licence Info

More Information on The Art Newspaper

Insiders (67)

Wilhelmina Jewell Strong - Sparks

Founder of BiTHOUSE Projects - BAAR Art Journey


Collector behind the ARNDT Collection

Sandra Guimarães

Director of Museum of Contemporary Art Helga de Alvear

Grazyna Kulczyk

Founder of Muzeum Susch


Interview with Georgie Pope and Eleonora Sutter, Co-founders

Kamiar Maleki

Director at VOLTA

Gallery Weekend Berlin 2022

Tokini Peterside

Founder and Director, ART X Lagos


Founding Director of the Athens Biennale

Boris Ondreička

Artistic Director of viennacontemporary

Maribel Lopez

Director of ARCO

David Gryn

Founder and Director of Daata

Fondation Beyeler Audiovisual Broadcast

Fondation Beyeler and Nordstern Basel present Dixon x Transmoderna

Gary Yeh

Founder of ArtDrunk and Young Collector

WATCH: The Best of the BMW Art Guide

Where will you travel next to explore art?

Maike Cruse

2020 Gallery Weekend Berlin

Touria El Glaoui

Founding Director of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Johann König

Messe in St. Agnes

PArt - Producers Art Platform

A crisis initiative to help artists directly affected by the pandemic

Barbara Moore

CEO of Biennale of Sydney

Unique Collector’s Item

by Independent Collectors

Alix Dana

Fair Director at Independent

When Collectors are Able to Commission

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Juliet Kothe and Julia Rust

Initiators of Collection Night, Berlin

Marie-Anne McQuay

Curator of Wales in Venice, 58th Venice Biennale 2019

Dorothy and Herb Vogel

Two extraordinary art collectors

Heather Hubbs

Director at NADA

Every Art Collection Needs Space

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Collecting Art with François Pinault

Rudolf Stingel at Palazzo Grassi

A Common Ground

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Caroline Vos

Director at Amsterdam Art Weekend

Hidden Collections

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Nicole Berry

Executive Director of The Armory Show

Daniel Hug

Fair Director at Art Cologne

The Role of the Art Fair

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Peter Bläuer

Director at LISTE

A Brush Against Nature

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Ilaria Bonacossa

Director of Artissima

Excessiveness, the Latent Danger of Collecting Art

by Independent Collectors

Jo Stella-Sawicka

Artistic Director at Frieze

Florence Bourgeois

Director at Paris Photo

Where Artists Can Work More Playfully

by Christiane Meixner

Specifically Commissioned

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Manuela Mozo

Executive Director of UNTITLED, ART Miami and San Francisco

Important Museums and Private Collections

by Christiane Meixner

Susanna Corchia

Director of the Barcelona Gallery Weekend

Emilia van Lynden

Artistic Director at Unseen, Amsterdam

Carlos Urroz

Director at ARCOmadrid

Shoe Smudges Streaked Across the White Walls

by Christiane Meixner

Amanda Coulson

Director at VOLTA Basel

Douwe Cramer

Director at Singapore Contemporary

Art and Architecture – Attractive Allies

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Jo Baring

Curator of Sculpture Series, Masterpiece London

Bidders and Buyers

by Christiane Meixner

Anne Vierstraete

Managing Director at Art Brussels

Nanna Hjortenberg

Director at CHART

The Crucial Role of the New

by Independent Collectors

Makers and Believers

On Art History’s Most Famous Patrons

The Past is Back

And collectors are buying it up

The Digital Museum

On the importance of the museum’s web presence

The Man in the Middle

On the curator’s private and public engagements

A Private Matter?

On the importance of physical space for the value of art

Off the Wall

How museums contribute to the worth of artworks

Where to Go Next?

The fragmentation of Manhattan’s gallery scene

To Buy or Not to Buy

Collectors on their experiences of letting an artwork slip away

How to Pass On a Passion

On long-term challenges for new private museums