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What is gained, lost, or learned from lists of top women curators?

Such as this list of women curators from Look Lateral.

I’m not sure if anything is gained or lost but they are incredibly annoying. Remember this handy interview from last month? Artnet basically asked mostly white, already-wealthy women or women in positions of power how they feel they’ve been marginalized. It seems like the conversations about race and class can’t happen at the time as conversations about gender discrimination.


It makes one think about Margaret Tatcher , the sort of confusing white post-suffragette or Sarah Palin and her Tea Party … but what to be a “women” does it really means on this case ? and at this level of social power and social integration? Are this "powerful women curators"influencing their male dominated context discourses with open possibilities and coherent feminist activism? so that we can also say that apart of them being powerful as just a feminine extension of the same patriarchal values, they are also powerful “artefacts” for the normalization and up-grading of the importance of women works and relevance on the male dominated art -context?
Sharing: Kate Zambreno, Heroines, http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/heroines-0
Nina Power ,One Dimensional Women , http://www.zero-books.net/books/one-dimensional-woman

I think nothing is gained - why putting the tone on female or male curators at all? It seems to me that putting the tone on difference will only lead to a continuation of differences rather than equalities. Maybe a list of top curators would be enough to realise if there are more women than men or vice-versa. Same goes for race.

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hello everyone.
I actually wrote the post on female curators on Looklateral.com.
In 13 years I worked in the contemporary art world, I ve seen so many times good girls (artists curators advisor collector) been under-considered compare to men colleagues. So we just wanted to put some effort to support all the women and help them to be more “popular”: many of my friends know Obrist, few of them Know Beatrix Ruff and actually noone know Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev for example. This is the purpose of Looklateral, to help people outside the artworld to get in touch and know more about it, and this post generate lot of interest: it means people google for women collectors/ curators etc.

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we published also about women collector…


It’s very interesting that we are back to the debate: do we need more gender equality or sexual difference? May be we need both!? Also, may be worth asking: What happens when women come into power and identify with it? And here I am paraphresing Julia Kristeva


This contribution from Suhail Malik (@SuhailMalik) in Red Hook Journal might be of interest here, as according to him, curatorial studies students are largely female. He asked various directors of these programs to comment on the “gender imbalace” he has noted within these:

1. Has there been a noticeable gender imbalance on your program?
Johanna Burton (Director, Graduate Program, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College): Of course. Curatorial courses—to say nothing of other graduate programs in the humanities—are famously unbalanced. During my years as a graduate student in art history, the ratio was invariably 5 (women) to 1 (man) in terms of student numbers. It goes without saying that the ratio of students going on to secure jobs does not correspond; in my experience, that is to say, the number of men hired to professorships or curatorial posts has been exceedingly high, especially considering the female-heavy pools from which candidates are drawn.
I’m not so interested in weighing in on the competencies of male candidates relative to their female counterparts in the market, since this is—and must be—a case-by-case matter. That said, and assuming—as I do—that men are not inherently better equipped than women, it is of note that female students outnumber male students by at least 500 percent in most instances, yet they often represent 50 percent or less of any given professional context.
Nathalie Hartjes (Coordinator, Curatorial Programme & Gallerist Programme, de Appel Arts Centre): Absolutely. From the very beginning we [at de Appel] have had more female than male participants. The program yearly accepts six individuals. Since its inception there have been only two years in which there was an equal male-female ratio of 3:3.
Leigh Markopoulos (Chair, Curatorial Practice MA Program, California College of the Arts): Yes, in favor of women. For the [CCA] class of 2010, for example, which comprised 12 women, only women applied (and we received a huge number of applications). Our most favorable ratio was for the class of 2011; that cohort comprised five women and three men. In the class we just graduated, we had 14 students, two of whom were male; this is the more usual ratio.
Helena Reckitt (MFA Curating, Goldsmiths, University of London): The Goldsmiths MFA curating course is strongly female-dominated. Since I started teaching here in January 2011, the ratio of female to male students has been approximately 4:1.
2. What do you think determines the above ratio?
Burton, CCS Bard: The persistence of deeply held, if outmoded and even somewhat unconscious, beliefs that link the arts and extended discourses around the arts to those aspects of culture deemed nonessential. While curatorial practice has, in the last two decades, assumed a much more visible role, and with that a kind of tangible intellectual prowess, assumptions around the nature of certain modes of production still hold. The ratio under discussion is hardly unique to curatorial courses, as I begin to discuss above. The liberal arts, for all their visibility, are assumed to labor outside of immediate urgency (that ascribed to the sciences, for instance), and so are still coded as luxurious pursuits. Female students and practitioners (myself included) do not, for the most part, identify with such reductive bourgeois associations. Indeed, what I describe here does not explain the presence of so many female students—on the contrary, it explains the absence of more male students. That men often assume the most powerful institutional roles in cultural institutions simply affirms that within any eco-system (however it signifies more broadly) familiar gendered rules apply.
Hartjes, de Appel: I find that difficult to state, as it is a guess based on the motivations of the individuals who do apply, and not those who don’t. The inequality is already visible in the applications: we get far more women applying than men. De Appel’s program relies very much on collaboration and exchange. I find it weird to say that is a feminine interest, but it could play a part. The idea of working with a group so intensely might not appeal to a competitive attitude usually identified as “male”; however, it must be said that this by no means implies that our women participants are pushovers!
Also, it seems that overall, female applicants put more care and thought into their applications, which translates to the selection process. Men tend to be a bit more nonchalant or sloppy (this is a broad generalization, of course!), and sometimes a bit overbearing or pushy. During the interview process it does seem that men are more affected by their nerves than their female counterparts.
Markopolous, CCA: Female students seem to want to be as prepared as possible before they embark on their careers; they are as ambitious as their male counterparts, but they feel the need for intellectual legitimization through study. Men seem to be more confident about gaining experience in the field, and on the job.
Reckitt, Goldsmiths: Rather than making the group work on one exhibition together, our course encourages students to develop their own independent curatorial research and projects. For female students in particular, taking time out to clarify and deepen their curatorial interests seems really valuable. It helps them to avoid getting stuck in a traditionally female “supportive” role, or to be overly responsive to institutional demands. It enables them to define what kind of curator they are, and what kind of curator they want to be.
The discursive nature of the program fosters a spirit of curiosity and self-reflexivity. Students learn from one another as much as—if not more than—from their teachers. This creates a peer group that, as a graduate of the course recently told me, offers “a global support network and personal advisory board for my work.”
Marketing—yourself and your ideas—is an essential component of being a curator today. This skill, important for curators working in institutions where they have to convince colleagues of their ideas and raise funds for their projects, is even more necessary for independent curators, whose very livelihoods depend on their promoting themselves and their ideas—what the writer Barbara Ehrenreich calls “the brand called you.” Putting their full affective powers to use, independent curators need to accumulate what Isabelle Graw calls “contact capital.” This kind of self-promotion can be especially difficult for women, who have internalized social mores about taking a facilitating role in relation to the artist, whom they are conditioned to identify and advocate for.
Students often form curatorial groups or collaborations during and after the course. Working as part of a collective effort provides a valuable sense of kinship and context for curatorial work: the feeling that you are working as part of something rather than in isolation. It also, I suspect, helps to stave off the disappointments of rejection that are an inevitable part of being a curator. If your projects are turned down, it’s not you and your ideas that are dismissed, but those of the group.
Considering the gender balance in curatorial education, a former teacher in the program argued that emerging male curators don’t seem to need the validation of a curating degree to the extent that women do. No doubt the underlying male-domination of our culture contributes to women’s comparatively lower sense of confidence and entitlement.
Traditionally, women working in the art field tend to get stuck in “assistant” positions (curatorial assistant, assistant curator, etc.) and do not progress through the ranks with the same ease as men. Many of our students enroll at this stage of their careers. They have gained several years’ experience but feel confined to a supporting, administrative role, which is, of course, classically female. Pleasingly, this situation seems to be changing. In London, women direct many key contemporary spaces, from the Whitechapel to the Serpentine Galleries, Camden Arts Centre to the Barbican. Tate Britain has its first female director, and Tate as a whole has a number of influential female curators. Some of these women are even feminists! And they prioritize the work of female artists in their programming. (In New York, MoMA’s reorientation toward women artists in the collection, under the feminist guidance of curator Connie Butler, is interesting in this respect.) Outside of London, things are a bit different [in the UK]. And most of the big collecting institutions are still run by men. But this recent change in personnel does suggest that the hard work of women who have risen through the ranks to the top of art institutions is starting to pay off.

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@mariana : Thanks for sharing that!!

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