Pluto Press Logo

Independent Radical Publishing




On the Blog



How Curating Took Over the Art World and Everything Else

by David Balzer

A criticism of the saturation of the 'curator' in art, business and everyday life

*Winner of the ICA Book of the Year, 2015*

Now that we 'curate' even lunch, what happens to the role of the connoisseur in contemporary culture?

'Curate' has become a buzzword, applied to everything from music festivals to artisanal cheese. Inside the art world, the curator reigns supreme, acting as the face of high-profile group shows in a way that can eclipse the contributions of individual artists. At the same time, curatorial-studies programs continue to grow, and businesses are adopting curation as a means of adding value to content. Everyone, it seems, is now a curator.

But what is a curator, exactly? And what does the explosive popularity of curating say about our culture's relationship with taste, labour and the avant-garde? In this vibrant book, David Balzer travels through art history to explore the cult of curation, where it began, how it came to dominate museums and galleries, and how it emerged at the turn of the millennium as a dominant mode of thinking and being.

Recalling such landmark works of cultural criticism as Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word and John Berger's Ways of Seeing, Balzer asks whether curationism has finally reached its own limits, where its widespread success has paradoxically led to its own demise.

David Balzer is currently Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Art and has contributed to publications including The Believer, Modern Painters, ARTnews, and Capital New York. He is the author of Curationism (Pluto, 2015).

'Balzer writes with zest, scepticism and sly humour as he tracks the rise of the 'star curator' as marking the end of any possible avant-garde. Curationism is a memorable exploration that will change how you see so many daily activities. I loved this brilliant book.'

- Sheila Heti, author of How Should a Person Be?

'Point[s] out how far we have come from the original avatars of the term: the curatores'

- Hal Foster, London Review of Books

'A book you should read. Balzer traces the history and current hegemony of curationism—a practice of jumped-up interior decorators who double as priests explaining the gospel to the unlettered masses. A good read, if you don't mind reading things that you don't want to know'

- Dave Hickey, art and culture critic

'An insightful, provocative and entertaining overview of many of the key issues in both art and cultural life today'

- Art Review

'Curationism is increasingly persuasive as it nears the present. The best sections concern the rise of conceptual art from the 1950s onwards, the rise of international high finance, and the merging of the two'

- Spectator

'A polemical account of what curators do and why not everyone is one'

- Monocle Magazine

'A fast but deep account of the rise of the curator through the art world into popular culture'

- The Globe and Mail


- moMus

Best Art Books of the Year

- Sky Goodden, National Post

'The kind of book I crave ... a beautiful, useful, and timely book'

- Scrivener Creative Review

Prologue: Who is HUO?
Part I: Value
Part II: Work
About the Author

Published by Pluto Press in Apr 2015
Paperback ISBN: 9780745335971
eBook ISBN: 9781783713196

129mm x 198mm