What Does a Art Curator Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A Day in the Life of an Art Curator

Grace Kim/The Balance

In the art world, the title of "curator" identifies a person who selects and often interprets different works of art, whether they be paintings, statues, tapestries, or video art. In addition to selecting works, the curator is often responsible for writing labels, catalog essays, and other content supporting art exhibitions.

Art curators have an eye for a variety of art forms and a passion for staging artwork in a way that creates interest in the exhibition space—whether it is small or large, contained within four walls, or staged outdoors.

Art Curator Duties & Responsibilities

As part of their day's regular duties and tasks, an art curator may perform some or all of the following:

  • Manage collections by recording and cataloging artwork and items in collections
  • Research objects to document identification and authentication.
  • Develop, plan, and execute various exhibitions
  • Write acquisition and exhibition proposals
  • Plan the presentation and install of artwork and objects
  • Create labels and interpretive materials for art work
  • Train docents and other museum staff on the exhibition's presentation and information.
  • Play an active role in the art community by publishing research and information to journals, catalogs and books
  • Have updated knowledge of the art market, and in-depth knowledge of the collections and exhibitions they manage
  • Develop and oversee educational programs and plans to cultivate donors for their organization

Art Curator Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the salary range of art curators is as shown below. Those employed at museums, historical sites, and similar institutions tend to earn average salaries on the low end of the scale, and those working in a federally designated institution, like the National Gallery, earn an annual median salary on the higher end f the scale.

  • Median Annual Salary: $53,770 ($25.85 /hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $94,880 ($45.62/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $29,210 ($14.04/hour)

Education, Training & Certification

The art curator position involves fulfilling education and training requirements as follows:

  • Education: While most curator positions require a college degree, smaller galleries may only require a bachelor's degree in art or art history. Larger organizations typically require a master's or doctorate in art or art history. Coursework should focus on art history and include a wide range of periods and styles of art and architecture.
  • Experience: The curator position is usually open to those who have at least three to four years of experience in a museum or gallery environment. This could be an assistant curator, museum technician, or similar position.

    Art Curator Skills & Competencies

    In addition to education and other requirements, candidates that possess the following skills may be able to perform more successfully in the job:

    • Management skills: The job requires having oversight and being responsible for a museum's collection.
    • A well-trained eye: A curator must be able to make the best quality selections of art and other items to be displayed in a museum or gallery.
    • Exhibition skills: Skill in this area is critical for organizing art exhibitions in galleries or public spaces.
    • Research skills: The job requires you to research artists and collect information about various works of art.
    • Writing skills: A curator is tasked with producing the written material that goes with artwork and other items.

      Job Outlook

      Art curator positions are in high demand, and they're limited by the number of galleries, museums, and other organizations dealing in art.

      According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for art and museum workers (which includes curators) from 2016 to 2026 is job growth of 14%, driven by continued and growing interest in museums and other centers that display cultural works. This is faster growth relative to other occupations and industries and compares to the projected 7% growth for all occupations.

      Work Environment

      Depending on the size of the organization, the curator may work at a desk, or may spend their time out on the floor talking to visitors. The job may involve lifting heavy art objects, and climbing ladders or scaffolding if they're involved in restoration work.

      Work Schedule

      Most curators work a full-time schedule during regular working hours. Curators at large organizations may have extensive travel to conduct research and evaluate potential additions to their collection.

      How to Get the Job

      APPLY

      Look at job-search resources like Indeed.com, Monster.com, and Glassdoor.com for available positions. You can also visit the websites of individual museums or visit them in person to apply to existing job openings.

       

      FIND AN ART CURATOR VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY

      Look for an opportunIty to do volunteer work through online sites such as VolunteerMatch.org. You can also contact various museums directly and volunteer your curatorial services.

       

      NETWORK

      Many jobs are available at universities and colleges. Attend events sponsored by the schools or approach personnel at the museums directly to inquire about potential positions.

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