Career Development

What Does an Art Curator Do?

Find out what an art curator does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as an art curator.

Art curators are responsible for the care and preservation of art collections. They work with a variety of different types of art, including paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, etc. Their job is to ensure that these pieces are properly cared for so they can be enjoyed by future generations.

Art curators may also have an active role in public outreach and education. They may give talks about their collection or organize special events where visitors can learn more about the art they’re preserving.

Art Curator Job Duties

Art curators typically have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Researching artists, art movements, or themes to develop an understanding of the historical context of a collection
  • Organizing and promoting exhibitions of new work or of work by emerging artists
  • Creating educational programs to accompany an exhibition to help visitors understand the meaning and significance of the artworks being displayed
  • Participating in conferences and symposia to discuss issues in art conservation, preservation, or education
  • Appraising artwork to determine fair market value of items being considered for purchase by an institution
  • Identifying promising artists for further consideration by curators and other art professionals
  • Selecting works for purchase for a museum’s permanent collection
  • Writing catalog essays and other text that accompanies an exhibition or collection
  • Identifying potential donors who may wish to fund new acquisitions for a museum’s collection

Art Curator Salary & Outlook

Art curators’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the size and type of museum or gallery they work for. They may also earn additional compensation in the form of bonuses or commissions.

  • Median Annual Salary: $79,500 ($38.22/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $122,000 ($58.65/hour)

The employment of art curators is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

Demand for art curators will stem from the continued growth of museums and galleries. As more institutions are built, there will be a need for curators to organize and oversee collections. In addition, as museums continue to digitize their collections, curators will be needed to ensure that the digital images are accurate.

Related: 25 Art Curator Interview Questions and Answers

Art Curator Job Requirements

There are a number of requirements for becoming an art curator, which may include:

Education: Art curators typically need a master’s degree in art history, fine arts, museum studies or a related field. These programs typically include coursework in art history, art appreciation, art conservation, curatorial practice, art management and art law.

Training & Experience: Art curators typically receive on-the-job training in the form of an internship while earning their master’s degree. During an internship, an art curator will learn about the museum’s collection, how to organize and display art and how to interact with visitors. They will also learn about the museum’s policies and procedures.

Some art curators also receive additional training in the form of a fellowship. Fellowships are often one-year programs that allow art curators to work closely with a curator or conservator. They will learn about the museum’s collection and how to organize and display art. They will also learn about the museum’s policies and procedures.

Certifications & Licenses: Art curators generally do not have any certifications, but they may need to earn licensure to work in a particular museum or gallery. The American Alliance of Museum Curators offers a certification program for aspiring art curators.

Art Curator Skills

Art curators need the following skills in order to be successful:

Art knowledge: Art curators often have a deep understanding of art history, art styles and art techniques. This knowledge can help them select art for an exhibition, as they can choose pieces that complement each other and appeal to the audience. Art knowledge can also help them identify art that’s authentic and of high quality.

Communication: Art curators often communicate with artists, patrons and other museum staff. They may also communicate with the artists who created the artworks in the museum’s collection. Effective communication can help you collaborate with others and share information effectively. You can also use communication skills to explain art to patrons and help them understand the art’s significance.

Organization: Art curators often use organization skills to keep track of their collections and ensure that the art is properly stored and displayed. They may also use organization skills to create and maintain records of the art they have and the art they’re looking to acquire.

Marketing: Marketing skills can help you promote exhibitions and events to increase attendance and generate revenue. You can use marketing skills to create advertisements, develop social media posts and create marketing campaigns to attract new visitors. You can also use marketing skills to create partnerships with other organizations to increase exposure for your organization.

Business skills: Art curators often work with businesses to plan and execute art exhibitions. This requires business skills, such as negotiation and contract-writing, to ensure the success of the project. You may also need business skills to manage budgets and other financial aspects of your job.

Art Curator Work Environment

Art curators typically work in art galleries or museums. They may also work in private art collections or in corporate art collections. Most art curators work full time, and many work more than 40 hours per week. They often work evenings and weekends to attend art openings and events. Art curators typically work indoors in well-lit and temperature-controlled environments. However, some travel is often required to attend art fairs, auctions, and conferences.

Art Curator Trends

Here are three trends influencing how art curators work. Art curators will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Rise of the Digital Museum

The digital museum is a growing trend that is changing the way art is displayed and preserved. With the rise of this trend, art curators will need to learn how to work with digital media in order to preserve artwork for future generations.

As the digital museum becomes more popular, art curators will need to be able to create digital exhibits that are both visually appealing and easy to navigate. They will also need to be able to manage and preserve digital artwork in a safe and secure environment.

Art as an Investment Asset

Art has long been considered a valuable asset, but in recent years it has become even more so. This is due in part to the increasing popularity of art as an investment asset, which has led to a greater demand for artworks.

As art continues to be seen as a good investment, art curators will need to develop skills that make them more marketable. This includes knowledge of current trends in the art world as well as expertise in appraising artworks.

A Focus on Cultural Diversity

Cultural diversity is becoming increasingly important in the art world, as museums and galleries strive to represent the diverse communities they serve. As a result, art curators are being called upon to help collect and display art from different cultures in a way that is respectful and accurate.

In order to stay competitive, art curators will need to develop a deep understanding of cultural diversity and its importance in the art world. They will also need to be able to identify and connect with collectors who are interested in collecting art from different cultures.

How to Become an Art Curator

A career as an art curator can be incredibly rewarding. It offers the opportunity to work with a variety of artists and their works, which means you’ll have the chance to learn about many different styles and techniques. You’ll also get to meet new people and attend interesting events.

If you want to become an art curator, it’s important to have a strong background in art history. You should also be familiar with current trends in the art world and have a good understanding of how art is displayed and sold. Additionally, it’s helpful if you have experience working with artists and know how to promote their work.

Advancement Prospects

Art curators typically need a master’s degree in art history, museum studies, or a related field and several years of experience working in a museum or gallery. Many curators begin their careers in entry-level positions, such as assistant curator, education coordinator, or registrar, and then move up to curator, deputy director, or director positions. Some curators also become museum administrators or professors of art history.

There are many opportunities for art curators to advance their careers. They can move up within their current organization, take on additional responsibilities, or move to a larger museum or gallery. They can also specialize in a particular type of art or era. For example, they might become an expert in Renaissance art or in contemporary art.

Art Curator Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we believe that art is for everyone. We are looking for an art curator who shares this belief and who has a passion for bringing art to the masses. The ideal candidate will have a deep knowledge of the art world and experience curating exhibitions. He or she will be responsible for developing and executing a curatorial vision for the [CompanyX] art collection, as well as for temporary exhibitions. The curator will also be responsible for writing didactic materials, such as labels and wall texts, to accompany the exhibitions.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Develop and oversee all aspects of exhibitions, from concept to design to installation
  • Work with artists, collectors, gallerists, and other stakeholders to secure loans for exhibitions
  • Write didactic materials such as labels and wall texts
  • Research and write catalogue essays
  • Serve as a liaison between the museum and the public, giving tours and talks as needed
  • Develop and maintain relationships with donors
  • Manage the art collection, ensuring proper storage, conservation, and documentation
  • Plan and implement fundraising events related to exhibitions and the collection
  • Stay up-to-date on trends in the art world
  • Attend art fairs, auctions, and gallery openings
  • Travel domestically and internationally as needed
  • Perform administrative tasks such as writing reports and maintaining budgets

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in art history or related field
  • 5+ years professional experience working with art collections
  • Demonstrated expertise in a particular area of art history or curatorial specialization
  • Excellent research, writing, and communication skills
  • Proven project management experience
  • Strong organizational skills and attention to detail

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • PhD in art history or related field
  • 7+ years professional experience working with art collections
  • Teaching experience at the university level
  • Experience organizing and executing exhibitions
  • Familiarity with museum databases and collection management systems


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