Independent Curators Gaining Recognition

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Independent Curators Gaining Recognition

Curatorship is considered one of the most promising jobs of the 21st century. Students are crowding into university art history departments, and because demand is so high, curatorship departments are even being established.
The road to becoming a successful curator, however, is long and treacherous. There are less than ten art galleries in Seoul that hold regular exhibitions, and even they employ only one or two curators each. College students who dream of becoming a curator are forced to face this reality when upon graduation.
Independent curators have recently begun active work in the business. Not affiliated with any galleries, these freelance curators plan exhibitions on their own. They take care of all aspects of the business themselves, including choosing the gallery and negotiating with artists.
Like venture businesspersons, independent curators have to convince wealthy patrons to sponsor them and their ideas. Most of these curators are college graduates in their thirties who have been unable to find stable employment at an established gallery.
However, independent curators are receiving more encouragement from Korean art circles these days. Prize contests for great ideas are being held to recognize the creavite abilities of freelance curators. For example, the Korean Culture and Arts Foundation runs a curatorship program which awards prizes to qualified applicants. The prizewinner receives an $8700 grant and is allowed to plan and show the exhibition of their design at the awarding gallery. This year 40 people applied to the contest and five were chosen.
The number of applicants has doubled since this time last year. Last month The Year of New Arts promotion committee for a short time accepted ideas for the upcoming arts festival exhibition. The committee received 58 applications. The 16 independent curators who were chosen will each receive $8700 in funding.
Even conservative galleries are opening their doors to new ideas. The Sungkok Museum began accepting applications for exhibition plans last year. Though there are three curators already working in the museum, inviting in outside curators is expected to add variety to the museum's exhibitions.
Museum team manager Kim Chan-dong says,"Though there are lots of people who are willing to plan exhibitions, most don't have the chance to actually hold exhibitions in this country."
He adds, "There have been many people who wanted to become curators, but not many really good curators have existed as yet. I see this as a good chance for us to find some talented people for the job."
The pressure placed on independent curators can be quite high because of their lack of experience in the business. They are expected to be free of educational ties, and are expected to be able to ignore the owners' tastes.

by Ki Sun-min

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