Custom «Curatorial Practice as a Discursive Frame» Sample Essay

Custom «Curatorial Practice as a Discursive Frame» Sample Essay

One of the main tasks of curators is to follow the specific ethical code, which presupposes certain standards and rules for their professional career. In this regard, the issue of responsibility is the central component since it requires curators to develop their skills to present museum collections and provide their interpretation for the audience. However, modern technologies have influenced the role of a contemporary curator, who does not always have an opportunity to teach the audience how to understand art, and, thus, a viewer often has to make his/her own interpretation. Moreover, contemporary art is a sufficiently complex and closed space that does not always offer clear answers, functioning as a set of separate complete stories. In this sense, a new type of museums also becomes the center of accumulation of the discourse and aesthetics. As a result of the shift, the new curatorial practice should form a discursive frame, transforming the collection into a space of effective intensity between the viewer and contemporary art.


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Despite the fact that the curator continues to explore, collect, and represent art, the emergence of new types of arts has qualitatively changed curatorial practices. Contemporary art is constantly looking for new forms of expression, and, therefore, the curator must also seek new forms of its demonstration in exhibitions. In particular, performances and video installations require the active involvement of the viewer in their own space, where the curator can control neither the process of perception nor the final result of understanding art. Within this situation, the problem of new museums is that they are forced to change their direction as well as the role of curators owing to the rapid artistic transformations. Hence, modern museums are increasingly becoming discursive, and the responsibility of curators varies from their physical and legal care about exhibitions to their ability to interpret contemporary art: “The museum is essentially a social institution which has the debate on aesthetics and its center”. It is important not so much to teach, but to show different possibilities of interpretation of contemporary art, where the audience plays the crucial role. Therefore, the new museum becomes an open discursive field in which any element can be involved as well as in contemporary art, where the most significant task is to create a co-field for aesthetic interaction.

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Following the abovementioned facts, curators form different discursive frames, transforming the previous ethical and aesthetical hierarchy into a performative engagement. According to Erber, the poststructuralist philosophy has framed art conceptually to guarantee its “separation and independence”.  The specificity of contemporary art is that it is sufficiently closed and elitist in its nature, but equally fundamentally depends on the viewer. Therefore, the ethical responsibility of curators is to create the most comfortable conditions for dialogue between the viewer and contemporary art. Additionally, Fisher states the “the aesthetics, rather than simply evaluating the significance of art, can encompass the process and effects of apprehension”. On the one hand, it simply transformed the classical function of a teacher who should be aware of art better than the viewer, possessing knowledge and values. However, contemporary art disregards such a hierarchy, where it is more common to be partners rather than a teacher and a student. Therefore, the curator, on the other hand, no longer serves as a teacher but rather performs as a facilitator and helper: “Documents once hidden in stacks or in storage facilities are suddenly becoming accessible on demand”. In this regard, curators should help to direct the viewer to contemporary art, transgressing and transforming his/her capacities for aesthetical perception.

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Accordingly, curators should find alternative ways of creating narratives in the new museum, modernizing and accelerating the learning of their audience due to the discursive nature of contemporary art. Curators and museums often use technology in the physical space to facilitate the understanding of contemporary art. For example, many museums of modern artistic works use data visualization and interactive methods to show unexpected scenarios, which also refers to the performative engagement. Furthermore, cloud technology helps museums to upload their collections and artifacts to a free virtual space, which can also serve as a narrative element. Specifically, it directly relates the curator’s responsibility in terms of public access to the collection, as the viewer can operate with various data in any possible way. Accordingly, curators facilitate research needs for the audience, avoiding the complex obstacles to interact with contemporary art. At the same time, such a principle of combining physical and virtual spaces allows for better understanding of contemporary art, representing it from unexpected sides.

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Progressing further, the evolution of contemporary art as well as modern museums has changed the concept of effective intensity. The viewer now cannot perceive art in a chronological order according to the previous paradigm of exhibition since the logic of contemporary art involves synchronized perception. Specifically, contemporary art, which combines digital art and conceptualism in a particular performance, specifies nonlinear motion from one object to another. Moreover, the rejection of physical objects involves random perception of things, where the mission of curators is to form a broader context for the viewer’s engagement into contemporary art: “Indicative of a shift in the primary role of curator is the changing perception of the curator as carer to a curator who has a more creative and active part to play within the production of art itself”. In this case, the curator does not present contemporary art as a linear narrative but rather as a discourse, where its statements are equal with each other. Such a democratic nature of contemporary art frees the curator from the responsibility to reveal the truth about the collection, enabling to offer only the most interesting facts and interpretations.

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Finally, one of the main problems in curating of contemporary art is how to properly dispose and preserve it in the future. The collection of museums does not only involve the formation of innovative ways of interpretation, but it also offers new versions of storing the objects. For example, the installations of Damien Hirst or the bloody self-portraits of Marc Quinn created new challenges for curators since the standard museum conditions render their works less durable compared to classic exhibits. Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) does not presuppose high endurance since its self-destruction is a part of the artist’s aesthetic message. Accordingly, the formation of a new approach to such objects and their subsequent deaccession is a necessary part of the curator’s ethical code. Hence, they should not only explore the context of contemporary art but also take the responsibility for its representation, storage, and disposal. This new ethical duty differs from the classical roles of curators, because, in the past, art objects were passive and static; thus, the level of control over them was completely dependent on the staff of museums.

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All in all, the curator’s responsibilities in contemporary art refer to the new museum model, which offers to care about and entertain the audience. According to Schubert, the classical museum was a center of education and enlightenment, preserving the elite component of culture. However, modern museums ceased to be the medium of complex and incomprehensible works of art, transforming their space into a discursive attraction. Schubert believes that new museums are similar to supermarkets and Disneyland: “In lieu of preservation there would be disposal, and sensation and spectacle would take the place of contemplation and experience”. This is due to the fact that the amateur viewer is more passive and tired of art, and, hence, the curator’s task is to awaken his/her interest in art. In this sense, Fisher states that “curatorial practice works to organize affect, to get human beings to feel particular ways about art and its contexts”. However, the problem is that the curator ceases to be a superior and a specialist because his/her task is to entertain the audience. Schubert also points to the specifics of exhibitions as temporary displays have replaced permanent exhibitions. Thus, the curator in this model is not a teacher but rather a manager who should carefully envisage the economic risks of a particular exhibition, its aesthetic value, and the meaning.

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In conclusion, curatorial practice as a discourse frame differs from the previous ways of curating in the museum. In particular, the curator is now not a teacher who conveys a message of art but rather a collector of various interpretations and narratives about exhibitions. The aim is to create an esthetical field that will involve the viewer in a common effective experience. Accordingly, the ethical mission of the curator is that he/she should be aware of the most interesting trends in art and its interpretations, transforming the process of learning into entertainment. At the same time, the classical museum also has changed and ceased to be a place for a disciplined learning by virtue of contemporary art that transforms it into a performative sphere of interactions. The new background also helps not only to adequately represent contemporary art but also to rethink the classical art in terms of virtualization. One way or another, the viewer is a full participant in the discourse, which often helps to decipher the intentions of an artist. The curator’s ultimate goal is to help create the most favorable conditions for a dialogue between the audience and contemporary art, which is not always clear but still open to everyone. As a result, the ethical responsibility of the curator is reduced to the role of an assistant who constantly produces interesting narratives in accordance with modern cultural and technological trends.

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