Art Curatorship Now and Beyond

This year marks the 25th anniversary that art curatorship has been taught at the University of Melbourne.

Within our contemporary lives, the term 'to curate' has become somewhat ubiquitous and overused. It does, however, reflect a widespread desire to be seen to be creative, to have the capacity to research, reflect, collect, and order - whether it is through online platforms and social media, or more formal avenues. So where does the formal study of Art Curatorship fit? Its teaching, training, research and development of professional skills do not simply prepare students to become curators. From its inception 25 years ago, the course has engaged with professional colleagues in leading arts institutions; it has worked with significant collections, such as the Ian Potter Museum of Art, the NGV, ACCA, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Gertrude Contemporary and many others; it has identified and taught best practice around conservation and collection management; and developed skills and expertise required in all areas of the visual arts - from the research and communication of cultural policy, to working with artists and making exhibitions.

Commencing in 1990 as a Postgraduate Diploma, the course was revised and expanded in 1995, resulting in establishment of the Master of Art Curatorship. Students now take a range of compulsory and elective subjects, with a thesis option. The development of Art Curatorship over the past twenty years has also influenced the Art History curriculum, with the introduction of engaging, industry-focused subjects such as The Virtual Print Room, Histories and Theories of Conservation, Biennales Triennales and Documentas, Aboriginal Art in the Northern Territory, and Museology in Florence. Student internships at some of our leading galleries and arts organisations are also a key part of the course, often fostering lifelong partnerships with professional colleagues. The recent addition of further contemporary curatorial subjects and courses reflect a burgeoning interest in curating contemporary art within the art curatorship field.

Over the last 25 years, in Australia and internationally, new contemporary institutions have emerged, both temporary and permanent; mega-exhibitions, or international thematic biennials (including Venice) have become the defining exhibition form of the contemporary period; generations of international curators and artists have emerged who travel to all parts of the world developing global networks. The sector has professionalised, in part through the development of courses such as Melbourne's Master of Art Curatorship. The Biennale of Sydney, Brisbane's Asia Pacific Triennial (APT), and Melbourne's only Melbourne Biennial are all central to these developments. Melbourne's rich range of art spaces, institutions, artists and galleries offer academics and students a unique opportunity to reflect on and engage with these constantly evolving trends within this region. The Faculty's practitioners and scholars of art curatorship also look further afield, increasingly towards Asia, which has become more important to internationalised contemporary art and to our region. In July 2015, the first group of Art Curatorship and Arts and Cultural Management students from the University of Melbourne will join Dr Rebecca Coates and Mikala Tai (next Director of Sydney's 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art) on an overseas studies trip,Advanced Art Fieldwork: Contemporary Art in China. Students regularly comment that first-hand experiences of this kind are invaluable, offering international comparisons, developing networks, and industry exposure.

To acknowledge the quarter century milestone, the Art Curatorship and Art History Department is organising a symposium from 17-19 September 2015, titled 'Art Curatorship Now and Beyond'. The symposium is both a celebration and a place for reflection on the teaching of art curatorship over the last 25 years at the University of Melbourne. It is also an opportunity to engage with professional colleagues from a range of Melbourne and Australia's leading visual art galleries and institutions to chart a course forward: to examine future directions and potential requirements for the teaching of visual arts professionals for the next 25 years. The symposium welcomes academic colleagues, professional peers, art curatorship students and graduates of the course, as well as Arts alumni and members of the wider public.

Dr Rebecca Coates
Lecturer, Art History, Art Curatorship