Stores curate, bloggers curate, websites curate: The New York Times’ Alex Williams writes a feature on the use of the word. “Curate is code for ‘I have a discerning eye and great taste,’” Williams tells us, adding, “Or more to the point, ‘I belong.’” Williams makes a great point, though he quotes no bloggers on the subject, surprisingly. Although there’s likely more than one thread that lead to the popularity of the term, as early as 2004 I, along with many others, was using the term curator to prop up a position looked down upon by a large number of print publishers. Whether or not it’s true, the fact that blogging is so mainstream now that most major publications host multiple blogs, suggests not only an appropriateness but effectiveness to a term not likely to have gone unnoticed. Today, even the biggest bloggers describe themselves as such. Boing Boing blogger and TV producer Xeni Jardin’s Twitter account biography provides a typical example: “Curator of Internet Esoterica, Anomalies, and Curiosities.”
But not everyone appreciates the increased popularity of the term curate, particularly not those in the art world. Earlier this week, Artnet linked to the piece over Twitter, snidely tweeting, “The word curate loses all relevance.” Though they likely meant “authority,” I was a little surprised to find myself agreeing with their response. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that I was excited to apply the title to what I did. But that title simply added more job responsibilities to an already unmanagable list. Independent bloggers aren’t just writers. They’re web strategists, business developers, PR specialists, ad managers, and curators. Those of us who only want to be writing increasingly find ourselves with an array of professional tasks requiring expertise outside the field we’re best at.
All this is to say that while I don’t mind being a blogger, the difference between a writer and a curator in the fine art world is disparate enough that I don’t want to claim that second title. Sure, I’m not bad at combing the web for links and sorting through exhibition listings, but I don’t have the time to research artists in the way curators would, I don’t possess their freakishly encyclopedic memory of artists and exhibitions, and I don’t naturally draw thematic connections from everything I see. And I’m fine with that. I have a different set of talents, and as long as I don’t call myself a curator, I’m not expected to do as the curators. Certainly, I don’t have to see more shows in a week than critic Jerry Saltz (who claims roughly 40), and most curators do. There’s simply no way for a blogger to keep up with that kind of volume.
Given that this is the case, I’m surprised more fine art blogs don’t partner with curators. Rhizome.org and VVork probably present the most well known models of this kind, but there are relatively few examples outside of this. Art Fag City’s Associate Editor Karen Archey has a background in curating, providing the blog with this expertise, and it is through her initiative that we’ll be collaborating with other curators next season. At present, Archey not only spearheads projects such as our fall preview and more recently the artists showcased in our masthead, but is overseeing an exhibition tentatively titled The New Romantics to launch this winter in Sacramento’s Verge Gallery. The hope is that through this partnering of Art Fag City’s web expertise with that of other art world professionals, the content on and offline provided to readers will be that much better. And in my case, I’m fairly certain that’s not going to come through claiming I’m a curator.