Curatorial Writing

Curatorial Rationale

What is a Curatorial Rationale?

The Curatorial Rationale is similar to an artists’ statement, but refers specifically to the work selected for this exhibition rather than the general artistic output. Writing the Rationale is part of the process of self- reflection, decision making, and of understanding of the relationship between artist and audience.

Break it down into 3 parts:

  • Overview, concepts, and ideas
  • Selection of works
  • Viewer Relationships

Overview, concepts, and ideas (theme):

You set the stage, so to speak, introducing us to the exhibition, what it is about and what are the underlying themes or threads.

  • How did your theme come about?
  • What are the concepts, issues or ideas you have explored here and how are they linked in your work?
  • What experiences have contributed to the making of this work?

Selection of works
The second paragraph can be a general discussion of the works in the show, or you may choose to list and discuss each piece individually, making connections among them. Maybe there is a particular piece that is pivotal to the rest of the show and you discuss this one in relation to the others.

  • What materials and techniques have you used and why did you choose these?
  • Do the materials have an impact on the meaning of the work?
  • How do you justify your selection of works chosen?

Viewer Relationship

The third part of the rationale can address the relationship with the audience and how the curatorial decisions you made may contribute to the viewers response.

  • How does the way the work is displayed, hung, otherwise presented contribute to how it communicates with the viewer?
  • How did you consider the arrangement of the works within the space that you have available?
  • Do you have an overall vision for presenting this body of work?
  • Be HONEST when writing about your work.
  • Do not write fluff or make things up about your work.
  • Refrain from using words such as beautiful, amazing, gorgeous, etc.
  • Stick to the facts!
  • Check your grammar and spelling.
  • Cannot exceed 400 words.

Journal reflections to build upon

  • What media do you work with? What interests you about work of this type?
  • What themes, concerns and ideas have you have explored in this work?
  • Is there a relationship between the media you use and the ideas that you work with?
  • What outside interests, artists, encounters or experiences have influenced your work?
  • What ties your individual pieces of work together into a cohesive body of work?
  • Is there an ‘intention’ behind the work; what do you want the work to achieve?
  • How do you want your audience to experience it?
  • How have your methods of display (how the work is arranged and presented) contributed to the viewer’s experience?
  • What is your vision for presenting this body of work (imagine you could have any possible space or display method)?
  • Formal requirements

The Curatorial Rationale: avoid ARTSPEAK!

Write in plain English (or Spanish or French) – And avoid ARTSPEAK (“Meaningless convoluted twaddle”).

Some people say that art should speak for itself and that writing about art is pointless.

In fact in the Theory of Knowledge guide Arts section there is the question, “Is there any point in discussing the arts – should we not simply experience them?”

Other questions in the same section are:

  • How can the subjective viewpoint of an individual contribute to knowledge in the arts?”
  • “On what basis can the merit of a work of art be judged?”

These questions may well be addressed in a later blog post, but today I want to remind you (students) that whatever you have to say about your own art, your writing should be consistently clear, articulate and easy to understand.

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