The Art of Curating

MSTD A460/A560


Spring 2007


Thursday, 6:00 – 8:40pm, HR 194




Mario A. Caro
Herron 240
735 W. New York St
Office phone:  278-9483
Office hours by appointment.






This course will explore the possibilities for, and consequences of, curating in the museum. Although the practice of curating is often defined according the needs of the institution, we will critically examine the creative process of producing exhibitions that convey critical narratives. As such, it will primarily focus on art museums and the various discourses that inform such a practice. Therefore, our approach will be interdisciplinary and will include perspectives offered by art theory and criticism, gender studies, marxism, postcolonial studies, psychoanalysis, among others. In terms of the scope of our exploration, we will briefly look at the history of curating but will emphasize the contemporary concerns within the field. We will also focus on Western practices, although we will consider how these function within a global art world.


            When you complete this course you should be able to:

·         Have an understanding of the history of the practices of curating.

·         Be familiar with the various strategies and technologies used in the process of curating.

·         Integrate and apply knowledge of current discourses related to the practice in order to critically assess the curation of specific exhibitions.

·         Be able to work collaboratively with others in team based learning and problem solving and communicate that learning in written and oral form

·         Be familiar with and apply critical thinking to current international curating practices.

·         Be able to conduct independent and applied research to curate an exhibition.

Required Texts:

All texts will be made available through OnCourse as pdf files.


The following is the percentage breakdown of your grades for assignments and participation.



      Group Presentations

20%  (2 @ 10%)

      Class Participation/Attendance


Mid-term Examination


Research Paper/Curated Exhibition


      Annotated Bibliography & Thesis


      Final Draft


Final Exam


Grading Scale:

 100-95% = A   

78 - 75% = C

 94 - 92% = A-

74 - 72% = C-

91 - 89% = B+

71 - 67% = D+

88 - 85% = B

66 - 63% = D

84 - 82% = B-

62 - 59% = D-

81 - 79% = C+

59% or below = F

Format of Meetings:

Our weekly meetings will have two components: 1) the first half will be a lecture that will frame key issues in relation to the week’s topic and assigned readings and 2) the second half will be a seminar discussion, led by graduate students, in which you will contribute your own critiques and questions raised by your engagement with the texts.


Weekly Readings:

You are required to complete the specified readings by the time our class meets and be prepared to critically engage issues raised by them. Our in-class discussion will be an opportunity to apply these issues to actual case studies and to update information that may be outmoded.

In addition to the weekly reading assignments, there are two required assignments for the course: 1) group presentations and 2(a) a research paper, focused on a relevant thesis of your own choosing or 2(b) a group project in which you curate an exhibition.

Graduate Group Presentations:

Graduate students will lead class discussion twice during the semester. These presentations can be done as a group or individually. This is not the time to summarize the readings for the class. Each of you should supplement the week's assigned readings with an article of your own choosing. This additional reading should form the basis for your presentation, which should synthesize your reading with those already assigned. The idea is to prepare leading questions and/or present hypothetical or actual scenarios that will facilitate our discussion. A pragmatic approach would be to select these readings according to your research interests. These presentations will count toward the participation portion of your grade.

Every student participating in a group presentation will submit 1) a two to three-page précis, a summary of their presentation and 2) a copy of the article you've selected.

If you choose to write a paper, the following apply:

Annotated Bibliography and Thesis Statement:

As a way of defining the scope of your research, you will be asked to develop an annotated bibliography with at least twelve entries. In addition, you will also write a thesis statement, based on your bibliography, as a first attempt to formulate the topic for your research paper. We will do a workshop in class on how to develop this assignment.

Research Paper

The bibliography and thesis statement assignment will prepare you to develop a research paper that will engage an issue dealing with the ethical concerns raised by museums. It will be a topic of you own choosing and will be based on original research. In addition to a bibliography, the length of the papers should be 15-20 pages for undergraduates and 20-25 for graduate students. We will discuss the proper ways of citing and formatting your paper in class.


As you can see, your participation makes up a large portion of your grade (40%). It is imperative that you attend class. Therefore, it’s better to come to class unprepared than not to come at all. Attendance at all classes is mandatory and you are responsible for all lecture material. Three absences within the semester constitute automatic failure. Students who repeatedly arrive late and or leave early will be counted tardy. Three tardies equals one absence.

Please check the university's website for inclement weather closings.

Late paper/work policy:

Late assignments will not be accepted. All assignments are to be submitted at the beginning of class on the date due.                                      

Academic Misconduct:

All work in the course is conducted in accordance with the University’s academic misconduct policy. Cheating includes dishonesty of any kind with respect to exams or assignments. Plagiarism is the offering of someone else’s work as your own: this includes taking material from books, web pages, or other students, turning in the same or substantially similar work as other students, or failing to properly cite other research. Please consult the University Bulletin’s academic misconduct policy if you have any questions about what constitutes academic dishonesty.

If You Need Special Assistance:

If you have learning problems that might require special accommodation for completion of class assignments, please notify me of these matters within the first two or three class periods. I’ll make every effort to make things work for you. You may wish to contact Adaptive Educational Services (AES), Cavanaugh Hall, Suite 001E , 425 University Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46202–5140, Tel: (317) 274–3241, TDD/TTY: (317) 278–2050, Fax: (317) 278–2051, Email: Staff there can provide a range of assistance.

The Student Advocate Office:

Do you have a problem you don't know how to solve? Is there information you cannot find? Do you have a question that needs an answer or a problem that is affecting your class attendance? The Student Advocate Office is here to help. It will answer your questions, direct you to the appropriate departments and people, familiarize you with university policies and procedures, and give you guidance as you look at ways to solve problems and make choices. The Student Advocate Office is located in UC002 and can be contacted by phone at 278-7594 or email at For more information, see the Student Advocate website at:




                       Weekly Schedule


Week 1


Introduction: Curating as Art Criticism


Week 2





The Artist


  • Hal Foster, “The Artist as Ethnographer,” in The Return of the Real: The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996), 171-203.

  • Walter Benjamin, “The Author as Producer,” in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, ed. Peter Demetz (New York: Schocken Books, 1978), 220-238.


Week 3







The Object



Week 4







The White Box


  • Brian O’Doherty, “Notes on the Gallery Space,” in Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 13-34. (web version) [O'Doherty.pdf]

  • Arthur Danto, After the End of Art (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1997): Chap. 1, "Introduction: Modern, Postmodern, and Contemporary," pp. 3-19. [Danto-Intro-AfterModernArt-Modern-PoMo.pdf]


Week 5





The Critic


  • Clement Greenberg, "Avant-Garde and Kitsch" [Greenberg Avant-Garde and Kitsch.pdf]

  • Dave Hickey, "Air Guitar" in Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy (Los Angeles: Art Issues Press, 1997): 163-171. [Hickey-Air_Guitar.pdf]

  • Rosalind Krauss, David Carrier, and Philosophical Art Criticism, review by Daniel A. Siedell, The Journal of Aesthetic Education 38:4 (2004): 121-123.  [Siedell.pdf]



The Visual Arts Critic, edited by András Szántó (New York: Columbia University National Arts Journalism Program, 2002).

International Association of Art Critics


Week 6



No Class


Week 7




Curator as Producer/Critic


  •  “James Putnam and Barbara London in Conversation” in The Producers: Contemporary Curators in Conversation (5), ed. Susan Hiller and Sarah Martin (Gateshead: BALTIC, 2002), 85-128. [Putnam_London.pdf]

  • Teresa Gleadowe, “Curating in a Changing Climate,” in Curating in the 21st Century (Walsall: The New Art Gallery, 2000), 29-44. [Gleadowe.pdf]

  • Alison Green, “A Short Chronology of Curatorial Incidents in the 20th Century,” in Curating in the 21st Century (Walsall: The New Art Gallery, 2000), 155-165. [Green.pdf]

  • Robert Storr, “How We Do What We Do? And How We Don’t.” in Curating Now: Imaginative Practice/Public Responsibility, ed. Paula Marincola and Robert Storr (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, 21001), 3-45. [Storr.pdf]


Week 8





The Personal in the Public Sphere


  • Joan Bellis, “Colonizing the Queer: Some Problems in Curating South Africa’s First National Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibition,” in Deep hiStories: Gender and Colonialism in Southern Africa, ed. Wendy Woodward, Patricia Hayes, and Gary Minkley (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002), 327-352.

  • Sandy Nairne, "The Institutionalization of Dissent," in Thinking about Exhibitions, ed., Reesa Greenberg, Bruce W. Ferguson, and Sandy Nairne (New York: Routledge, 1996): 387-410.


Assignment: Annotated Bibliography and Thesis Statement or


Week 9



Curating (Beyond) the Museum


  • Andrea Fraser, “A Museum is not a business. It is run in a businesslike fashion,” in Beyond the Box: Diverging Curatorial Practices (Banff: Banff Centre Press, 2003), 109-122.

  • Michael Keith, “The Cultural Quarter: Globalisation, Hybridity and Curating Exotica,” in After Cosmopolitanism? Multicultural Cities

  • Gregory Sholette, “Fidelity, Betrayal, Autonomy: In and Beyond the Post-Cold War Art Museum,” in Beyond the Box: Diverging Curatorial Practices (Banff: Banff Centre Press, 2003), 123-138.

Week 10




Spring Break

Week 11








A (Post)colonial Perspective


  • Lee-Ann Martin, “Wordplay: Issues of Authority and Territory,” in Making a Noise! (Banff: Banff Centre Press, 2004), 102-107.

  •  Brenda L. Croft, "What about the Dots and Circles?! The Children Need Them," in Making a Noise! (Banff: Banff Centre Press, 2004), 108-127.

  • Ian McLean, “Postcolonial Traffic: William Kentridge and Aboriginal Desert Painters.” Third Text 17: 3 (2003): 227-240.

  • David Prochaska, “Postscript: Exhibiting Hawai‘i,” in Post-colonial America, ed. C. Richard King (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 321-352.


Week 12






The Dreadful Biennial


  • Ivo Mesquita, “Biennials Biennials Biennials Biennials Biennials Biennials Biennials,” in Beyond the Box: Diverging Curatorial Practices (Banff: Banff Centre Press, 2003), 63-67. [Mesquita.pdf]

  • Cuauhtémoc Medina, “Another Hysterical Attempt to Theorize about Defeat,” in in Beyond the Box: Diverging Curatorial Practices (Banff: Banff Centre Press, 2003), 69-85. [Medina.pdf]

  • Okwui Enwezor, "The Postcolonial Constellation: Contemporary in a State of Permanent Transition." Research in African Literatures, 34: 4 (Winter 2003): 57-82. [Enwezor.pdf]


Week 13







Curating (as) Natural History


  • Mieke Bal, “Telling, Showing, Showing Off.” Critical Inquiry 18:3 (Spring, 1992): 556-594.

  •  Donna Haraway, “Teddy Bear Patriarchy: Taxidermy in the Garden of Eden, New York City, 1908-36." Social Text 11 (Winter 1984-85): 20-64.

Week 14






 The Vir(tu)al Box


  • Sarah Cook, “Context-specific Curating on the Web (CSCW?)” in Network Art: Practices and Positions, ed. Tom Corby (New York: Routledge, 2006), 40-56.

  • Barbara Maria Stafford, “Complicating the Formats of Art History,” in The Two Art Histories: The Museum and the University, ed. Charles W. Haxthausen (Williamstown, MA: Sterling and Francine Clark Institute, 2002), 52-59.

  • Joasia Krysa, “Curating Immateriality: The Work of the Curator in the Age of Network Systems,” in Curating Immateriality: The Work of the Curator in the Age of Network Systems (New York: Autonomedia, 2006), 7-25.




Exhibition Opening ??



Final Examination

Assignment: Final Draft of Term Paper Due