W.A.G.E. wants Documenta curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev to rethink her attitude that artists should come free to her exhibitions. “If you were an artist,” she says in the above clip, “you didn’t get any money, no, because you were invited to the exhibition.” “Invited.” They should thank her! The video comes from a panel around the time of her Creative Time Summit talk, which flew off the rails when Christov-Bakargiev decided the time slot wasn’t long enough.
W.A.G.E. is not the first to call out the exhibition for paying curators but not artists. Artist Martha Rosler wrote as much in a 2003 series of essays published on e-flux, “The Next Documenta Should Be Curated By an Artist“:
But I have a question. It seems that curators get paid well for their work at these big exhibitions, and of course artists get paid not at all. If artists do the curating, will we get paid for our labor, or is this more free inspiration, freely given?
And John Baldessari took this one step further:
So I suppose quid pro quo — yes! Let’s do a Documenta led by a team of artists. Here’s an idea — let Documenta be an exhibition using curators as raw materials.