Cover: A Companion to Curation by Brad Buckley, John Conomos


These invigorating reference volumes chart the influence of key ideas, discourses, and theories on art, and the way that it is taught, thought of, and talked about throughout the English‐speaking world. Each volume brings together a team of respected international scholars to debate the state of research within traditional subfields of art history as well as in more innovative, thematic configurations. Representing the best of the scholarship governing the field and pointing toward future trends and across disciplines, the Wiley Blackwell Companions to Art History series provides a magisterial, state‐of‐the‐art synthesis of art history.

  1. A Companion to Contemporary Art since 1945
    edited by Amelia Jones
  2. A Companion to Medieval Art
    edited by Conrad Rudolph
  3. A Companion to Asian Art and Architecture
    edited by Rebecca M. Brown and Deborah S. Hutton
  4. A Companion to Renaissance and Baroque Art
    edited by Babette Bohn and James M. Saslow
  5. A Companion to British Art: 1600 to the Present
    edited by Dana Arnold and David Peters Corbett
  6. A Companion to Modern African Art
    edited by Gitti Salami and Monica Blackmun Visonà
  7. A Companion to Chinese Art
    edited by Martin J. Powers and Katherine R. Tsiang
  8. A Companion to American Art
    edited by John Davis, Jennifer A. Greenhill and Jason D. LaFountain
  9. A Companion to Digital Art
    edited by Christiane Paul
  10. A Companion to Dada and Surrealism
    edited by David Hopkins
  11. A Companion to Public Art
    edited by Cher Krause Knight and Harriet F. Senie
  12. A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, Volumes 1 and 2
    edited by Finbarr Flood and Gulru Necipoglu
  13. A Companion to Modern Art
    edited by Pam Meecham
  14. A Companion to Contemporary Design since 1945
    edited by Anne Massey
  15. A Companion to Illustration
    edited by Alan Male
  16. A Companion to Modern and Contemporary Latin American and Latino Art
    edited by Alejandro Anreus, Robin Greeley and Megan Sullivan
  17. A Companion to Feminist Art
    edited by Hilary Robinson and Maria Elena Buszek
  18. A Companion to Curation
    edited by Brad Buckley and John Conomos


  1. A Companion to Australian Art
    edited by Christopher Allen

A Companion to Curation

Edited by

Brad Buckley and John Conomos

No alt text required.

For Annette Michelson, in memoriam


For Paul Virilio, in memoriam


For Agnès Varda, in memoriam


For Okwui Enwezor, in memoriam


Series Editor’s Preface

Blackwell Companions to Art History is a series of edited collections designed to cover the discipline of art history in all its complexity. Each volume is edited by specialists who lead a team of essayists, representing the best of leading scholarship in mapping the state of research within the subfield under review, as well as pointing toward future trends in research.

This Companion to Curation offers a new and insightful consideration of the role of the curator, curating, and the history of curation. Focusing on the last 30 years, this volume explores the many new forms of curatorial practice that have emerged during this time. These practices, which take place both inside and outside of art institutions, are considered in a global context and include contemporary indigenous art, contemporary Chinese art since the 1980s, and the emergence of new curatorial strategies from beyond the Eurocentric art world.

The essays combine the viewpoints of leading artist-curators, curators, scholars, art historians, and theorists in the field of curating with newer voices to provide a genuine global cross-disciplinary dialogue about perspectives and issues related to curating. The volume is divided into four sections: An Overview: The Origin and Provenance of Curating; Movements, Models, People, and Politics; The Curator in a Globalized World; and Beyond the Museum: Curating at the Frontier.

These essays question the legacy of Western thought and culture on contemporary art and curatorship and argue that contemporary curating has different predicates. In this way we see interactions and innovations between art and curating in the contemporary world.

A Companion to Curation is a very welcome and timely addition to the series.

Dana Arnold, 2019

About the Editors

Brad Buckley born in Sydney, is an artist, urbanist, activist, and curator and a Professorial Fellow at Victorian College of the Arts, Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, the University of Melbourne. He is also a foundation Fellow at the Centre of Visual Art (CoVA), the University of Melbourne. He was previously Professor of Contemporary Art and Culture at Sydney College of the Arts, the University of Sydney. He was educated at St Martin’s School of Art, London, and the Rhode Island School of Design. He is the editor, with John Conomos, of Republics of Ideas: Republicanism, Culture, Visual Arts (Pluto Press, 2001), Rethinking the Contemporary Art School: The Artist, the PhD, and the Academy (NSCADU Press, 2009), with Andy Dong and Conomos, Ecologies of Invention (SUP, 2013), and with Conomos Erasure: The Spectre of Cultural Memory (Libri Publishing, 2015). His most recent publication, with Conomos, is Who Runs the Artworld: Money, Power and Ethics (Libri Publishing, 2017). Buckley has also developed and chaired, with Conomos, several sessions at the College Art Association, US. He has been a visiting professor and artist at the National College of Art and Design (Ireland), Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University, the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, the University of Tsukuba (Japan), and Parsons School of Design, The New School (US). He is the recipient of the prestigious MoMA PS1 Center for Contemporary Art Fellowship (New York 1990–1991) from the Australia Council for the Arts, an Australian Learning and Teaching Council grant (with Baker), and numerous other awards and research grants.

His work, which has been shown internationally for over 35 years, operates at the intersection of installation, theater, and performance, and investigates questions of cultural control, democracy, freedom, and social responsibility. Buckley’s work has been included in the 3rd International Biennial (Ljubljana, [former] Yugoslavia), My Home is Your Home: The 4th Construction in Process (the Artists’ Museum, Lodz, Poland), Co‐Existence: The 5th Construction in Process, (the Artists’ Museum, Mitzpe Ramon, Israel), and the 9th Biennale of Sydney, and in exhibitions at Artspace (Sydney), Australian Centre for Photography (Sydney), Franklin Furnace (New York), the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien (Berlin), the MoMA PS 1 Institute for Contemporary Art (New York), the Dalhousie Art Gallery (Halifax), Institute of Modern Art (Brisbane), the Tsukuba Art Gallery (Japan), and Plato’s Cave (New York).

John Conomos is an artist, critic, writer, and curator and Associate Professor and Principal Fellow at Victorian College of the Arts, Faculty of the Fine Arts and Music at the University of Melbourne. Conomos has also recently been appointed as a Fellow of the Centre of Visual Art (CoVA) at the University of Melbourne. Conomos has exhibited extensively both locally and internationally across a variety of media: video art, new media, photo‐performance, installations, and radiophonic art. He is a prolific contributor to art, film, and media journals and a frequent keynote speaker and participant at conferences, fora, and seminars.

His video Autumn Song received an award of distinction at Berlin’s Transmediale Festival in 1998. In 2000, Conomos was awarded a New Media Fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts and in 2004 he was awarded a Global Greek Award (Hellenic Ministry for the Arts and Culture) for his contribution to the visual arts and the Greek diaspora. Conomos is the author of Mutant Media (Artspace/Power Publications, 2008) and in the following year he edited, with Buckley, Rethinking the Contemporary Art School: The Artist, the PhD and the Academy (NSCADU Press, 2009), and in 2013 he was an editor, with Andy Dong and Buckley, of Ecologies of Invention (SUP). He is also the editor, with Buckley, of Erasure: The Spectre of Cultural Memory (Libri Publishing, 2015) and in 2017 of Who Runs the Artworld: Money, Power and Ethics (Libri Publishing).

In 2008, his work was included in Video Logic at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and in 2009 his video Lake George (After Mark Rothko) was screened at the Tate Modern (London), where he also spoke on his art practice.

In 2013, Conomos exhibited Spiral of Time, which was accompanied by a major publication, at the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney (ACP). Also in the same year, Conomos exhibited in Etudes for the 21st Century at the Osage Gallery, Hong Kong with leading European media artists Robert Cahen and Kingsley Ng. In 2016, he exhibited a performance video Paging Mr Hitchcock at the Mosman Art Gallery, Sydney. Conomos has also exhibited at Cementa 15 (2015) and Cementa 17 (2017). And with Steven Ball in 2016, Conomos exhibited a multimedia installation, Deep Water Web, at London’s Furtherfield Gallery.

He is currently writing a memoir called Milk Bar.

Notes on Contributors

Thomas J. Berghuis is a curator and art historian, based in Leiden, the Netherlands. His monograph on Performance Art in China was published in 2006 with Timezone 8 in Hong Kong. Berghuis has further published on contemporary art, new media art, experimental art, and curatorial practices in China and Indonesia. Exhibitions curated by Berghuis include Wang Jianwei: Time Temple at the Guggenheim Museum, New York (2014) and Suspended Histories at the Museum van Loon, Amsterdam (2013).

David Carrier is a philosopher who writes art criticism for, Brooklyn Rail, and hyperallergic. He has published books on the art museum, the art gallery, the world art history, the pictures of Sean Scully, the paintings of Nicolas Poussin, and the art criticism of Charles Baudelaire. His most recent books are Aesthetic Theory, Abstract Art, and Lawrence Carroll (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018) and, with Joachim Pissarro, Aesthetics of the Margins/The Margins of Aesthetics: Wild Art Explained (Penn State University Press, 2018).

Juli Carson is Professor of Art at UC Irvine. She is also Philippe Jabre Professor of Art History and Curating at the American University of Beirut, 2018–2019. Her books include: Exile of the Imaginary: Politics, Aesthetics, Love (Generali Foundation, 2007) and The Limits of Representation: Psychoanalysis and Critical Aesthetics (Letra Viva Press, 2011). The Hermenuetic Impulse: Aesthetics of an Untethered Past was published this year by PoLyPen, a subsidiary of b_books Press.

Biljana Ćirić is an independent curator based in Shanghai and Belgrade. She was the co‐curator of the 3rd Ural Industrial Biennial for Contemporary Art (Yekaterinburg, 2015), curator‐in‐residence at the Kadist Art Foundation (Paris, 2015), and a research fellow at Henie Onstad Kunstsenter (Høvikodden, 2016). Her most recent project was the Second Assembly, a seminar series related to the exhibition histories of China and Southeast Asia, with a focus on the 1990s, which was hosted by the Rockbund Art Museum in 2018.

Sara Diamond is President of OCAD University, Canada’s, “University of the Imagination.” She holds a PhD in Computing, Information Technology and Engineering. She is an appointee of the Order of Ontario and a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for service to Canada. She is the winner of the 2013 GRAND NCE Digital Media Pioneer Award, and Canada’s Leading 150 women. Her research includes data visualization, public art policy, and media histories.

Gregory Galligan is an independent curator and art historian and director/co‐founder of the nonprofit research platform THAI ART ARCHIVES™ (f. 2010), in Bangkok. He lectures on global modern and contemporary art histories for the International Program in Design and Architecture (INDA), and cultural management and the history and theory of contemporary curatorial practice for the MA in Cultural Management (MACM) curriculum at Chulalongkorn University (Bangkok).

Alex Gawronski is an artist, writer, gallerist, and academic based in Sydney, Australia. Gawronski frequently focuses on the institutional dynamics that underwrite and determine how we see and consume art. He has founded and directed numerous independent artist spaces, currently KNULP in Sydney. In 2017, he participated in The National: New Australian Art, a survey of mid‐career and established artists at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia.

Adam Geczy is an artist and writer who teaches at the University of Sydney. His Art: Histories, Theories and Exceptions (Berg, 2008) won the Choice Award for best academic title in art in 2009. Having produced over 16 books, recent titles include Artificial Bodies in Fashion and Art (Bloomsbury, 2017) and Transorientalism in Art, Fashion and Film (Bloomsbury, 2019). He is also editor of the JAPPC and ab‐Original (both Penn State University Press).

Arnau Gifreu‐Castells is a research affiliate at the Open Documentary Lab (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and part of the i‐Docs group (University of the West of England). He has published various books and articles in his research area, interactive and transmedia non‐fiction, and specifically on interactive documentaries.

Eric Kluitenberg is a theorist, writer, curator, and educator working at the intersection of culture, politics, media, and technology. He is the Editor‐in‐Chief of the Tactical Media Files, an online documentation platform for Tactical Media. He was a Research Fellow at the Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, and teaches cultural and media theory at the Art Science Interfaculty in The Hague, the Netherlands. His recent publications include (Im)Mobility (2011) and Acoustic Space #11, Techno‐Ecologies (RIXC, 2012).

Elke Krasny, Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Her research, writing, and curating connects feminist praxis, spatial economies, urban analysis, and curating’s historiographies. Publications include the 2017 essays “Exposed: The Politics of Infrastructure in VALIE EXPORT’s Transparent Space” in Third Text and “The Salon Model: The Conversational Complex” in Feminism and Art History Now, edited by Horne and Perry. The volume Women’s: Museum. Curatorial Politics in Feminism, Education, History, and Art appeared in 2013.

Maria Lind is a curator, writer, and educator based in Stockholm. She is the director of Tensta konsthall, Stockholm, and the artistic director of the 11th Gwangju Biennale. She was director of the graduate program, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (2008–2010). Among her recent co‐edited publications are Art and the F Word: Reflections on the Browning of Europe (Sternberg Press, 2014). She edited Abstraction as part of MIT’s and Whitechapel Gallery’s series Documents on Contemporary Art.

Sean Lowry is a Melbourne‐based artist, writer, curator, and musician. He holds a PhD in Visual Arts from the University of Sydney and is currently Head of Critical and Theoretical Studies at Victorian College of the Arts, Faculty of Fine Arts and Music at the University of Melbourne. Lowry has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally, and his published writing appears in numerous journals and edited volumes. He is also Founder and Executive Director of Project Anywhere ( For more information, please visit

Andrew McClellan is Professor of Art History at Tufts University, US. He has written widely on eighteenth‐century European art and the history of museums and art collecting. His books include: Inventing the Louvre: Art, Politics, and the Origins of the Modern Museum in Eighteenth‐century Paris (University of California Press, 1999), Art and its Publics (Wiley‐Blackwell, 2003), The Art Museum from Boullée to Bilbao (University of California Press, 2008), and, with Sally Anne Duncan, The Art of Curating: Paul J. Sachs and the Museum Course at Harvard (Getty Publications, 2018).

Gerald McMaster is a curator, artist, author, and professor and is a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Visual Culture and Curatorial Practice at OCAD University, Toronto, Canada. McMaster has curated two international biennales: in 1995 he was Canadian commissioner to the Biennale di Venezia and in 2012 he was artistic co‐director, with Catherine de Zegher, of the 18th Biennale of Sydney. In 2018, he was Curator for the Canadian Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2018 (Venice, Italy).

Djon Mundine, OAM, is a member of the Bandjalung people of northern New South Wales, Australia and is a curator, writer, artist, and activist. He has held prominent curatorial positions in national and international institutions. He was the concept artist of the Aboriginal Memorial at the National Gallery of Australia in 1988. In 2005–2006 he was Research Professor at the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan. He is currently an independent curator of contemporary Indigenous art.

Melentie Pandilovski is an art theorist, historian, and curator. His research examines the links between art culture and science technology. He was previously director of Video Pool Media Arts Centre, Winnipeg, Canada and is currently Director of the Riddoch Art Gallery, Mount Gambier, Australia. He has curated more than 200 projects in Europe, Australia, and Canada. He is the editor (with Tom Kohut) of Marshall McLuhan & Vilém Flusser Communication & Aesthetics Theories Revisited (Video Pool, 2015).

Carole Paul is director of Museum Studies in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her current work concerns the history of museums and collections in the early modern period, especially in Rome. Her various publications include The First Modern Museums of Art: The Birth of an Institution in 18th‐ and Early‐19th‐Century Europe (Getty Publications, 2012). She is now writing a book on the Capitoline Museum in Rome.

Chris Spring is an artist, writer, and curator ( His research interests include contemporary African art and the machine‐manufactured textile traditions of eastern and southern Africa. Exhibitions at the British Museum include A South African Landscape (2010), Social Fabric (2013), and South Africa, Art of a Nation (2016) with John Giblin. His award‐winning books include Angaza Afrika: African Art Now (Laurence King, 2008), African Textiles Today (British Museum Press, 2012), and, with John Giblin, South Africa, Art of a Nation (Thames & Hudson, 2016).

Fatoş Üstek is an independent curator and writer based in London. She has recently curated Art Night 2017 in collaboration with Whitechapel Gallery, London; Art Fund Curator at fig‐2, ICA Studio, London; and Associate Curator of the 10th Gwangju Biennial, South Korea. She is a member of AICA UK, a founding member of AWITA, Trustee of Art Night, and a member of the advisory board of Block Universe. Recent editorial work includes Fusion of Horizons (Whitechapel/MIT Publishing, 2018) and fig‐2: 50 projects in 50 weeks (Black Dog Publishing, 2017), and other publications include Eva Grubinger (Sternberg Press, 2015).

Lee Weng‐Choy is an independent art critic and consultant, currently based in Kuala Lumpur. He is president of the Singapore Section of the International Association of Art Critics and writes on contemporary art and culture in Southeast Asia. His essays have appeared in journals such as Afterall, and anthologies such as Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art, Over Here: International Perspectives on Art and Culture, and Theory in Contemporary Art since 1985.

Martha Wilson is a performance artist and founding director of Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc. in New York, US.


The editors sincerely wish to thank the following people for making this book possible. Jayne Fargnoli, Catriona King, Jake Opie, Elisha Benjamin, and Richard Samson of Wiley‐Blackwell for their unwavering professionalism and dedication in seeing our manuscript through from its conception to its realization.

To Helen Hyatt‐Johnston for her professional advice, encouragement, and assistance over the previous four years. And to Carolyn Symonds also for her encouragement and support over many years.

During the final preparation of the manuscript, Brad Buckley is also very grateful to Professor Jon Cattapan, Director of the Victorian College of the Arts and Professor Su Baker, AM, Pro‐Vice‐Chancellor (Engagement) and Director of the Centre of Visual Art (CoVA), Victorian College of the Arts, the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music at the University of Melbourne for the residency at the Norma Redpath Studio. Also, to the Bruny Island Foundation for the Arts and the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service for the residency.

We are, of course, especially grateful to all of our contributors who gave their time and expertise in helping us to materialize our editorial intentions and objectives. Many heartfelt thanks to all of you in sharing our critical interest for the concerns and direction of contemporary curating in our society.

It is hoped that A Companion to Curation in its own way contributes to a better conceptual, cultural, and historical understanding of contemporary art discourse and its impact on our individual and public lives.

Brad Buckley and John Conomos


The role of the curator has always evolved, as the definitions and institutions of art have changed. It is not only the role that has transformed, however, but also the expectations of what curators should do, not unlike what is now required of educators (and the roles are becoming more and more intertwined): to be highly productive and mobile; to be a consummate communicator, diplomat, scholar, and maybe fundraiser; to be at the forefront of emerging developments; and to be accessible to broad and diverse audiences. As exhibitions become absorbed into the mass entertainment industry, with institutions compelled to ever extend their visitorship, curators increasingly need to also move beyond the confines of the museum and into the public sphere – both physical and virtual – as facilitators, collaborators, advocates, and entertainers.

While the situation sketched here is by no means universal, it reflects the great diversification of curatorship in the twenty‐first century. We can attribute this to numerous factors: new technologies, shifting demographics, globalizing artistic networks, the addressing of racial and gender biases in art history and museums, and the “educational turn” in the making, presentation, and communication of art toward research and knowledge production. Each has challenged the traditional institutions of art, opening them up to new histories and audiences, as well as building new models and alternative systems. Artists and curators, often from outside the dominant power structures and centers of modern art, have challenged how exhibitions are made, putting forth positions that have begun to dismantle what seemed unassailable only a few years ago. If we go back to the communicative role of the curator, it is now starkly evident that a close consideration of who speaks, to whom, and for whom, is fundamentally important to curatorial work.

To understand how these developments have brought us here, a wide‐ranging and historically grounded anthology such as this is enormously useful. There have been numerous publications on curating in recent years, many coming out of the proliferating courses and conferences on the subject, as well as the rapidly growing scholarship on exhibition histories. This book adds substantially to the field by bringing together a number of these research streams, enabling us to connect multiple perspectives and methodologies that have emerged over several centuries in different locations. The chapters here trace the transformation of the curator from a keeper of curiosities in seventeenth‐century Europe, to a builder of collections and a maker of exhibitions, to a multifaceted cultural agent in a global, virtual world. Such a long, broad view brings into focus how complex and dynamic the curatorial field is. While deeply informed by history and the responsibilities that carries, it is continually being invigorated and challenged by the conversations taking place between individuals in the present. This publication affirms that in making our way through this vastly expanded arena – where we are often in danger of forgetting or getting lost – it is this willingness to keep the conversation going that is our surest guide.

Russell Storer
Deputy Director (Curatorial & Research)
National Gallery Singapore