guest post by Lisa Hunter


Why does a museum curator choose one artist’s work over another’s? What themes or subject matter are dealers so sick of that they won’t even consider your slides?


From responses to my book The Intrepid Art Collector and discussion on my blog, I have learned that artists often don’t know the answers to these types of questions. Instead, there is widespread confusion about the inner workings of the art world. This is unfortunate because, if you are an artist, what you don’t know can hurt you.

Where should artists go to learn more about how the art world works? A contemporary art museum recently asked me to consult on how they can make their website more popular. It occurred to me that what would make a museum site interesting is if it were a place not simply to learn what art is in the museum, but why that art is the museum. To explain the “why,” I want to interview curators and ask them to explain how they picked a particular work of art for their museum (where they heard of it, what made it stand out from the others). I want to interview the artists whose work gets into the contemporary museums to find out how they “made it,” how they broke out of the pack of artists with the same goal.

Can you imagine visiting a museum website to find out how the art world really works?

Here are some other topics I could write about in depth for the museum’s site. Which of these would interest you the most?

  • Should artists donate their art to museums, and if so, will the museum actually exhibit it?
  • Are some artists better off outside of major art centers, where “locals” get more attention from museums?
  • What are the options for artists whose work is out of fashion at the moment?
  • Does being an assistant to a major artist lead to career opportunities, or does it tar you as a “fabricator”?
  • How important is an artist’s personality? (I can already answer this one — it’s critical. One curator I know won’t even consider showing someone who’s “difficult” to work with). How can you avoid making enemies without being a phony?
  • Why do curators seem to favor young artists? And how can a mid- career artist break out? Is it too late?
  • What type of paid-gallery rip-offs do artists need to beware of?
  • Which prizes and competitions actually mean something to major curators and dealers?

Please let me know what you think. At this early stage in thinking about the museum’s website, your feedback would be extremely valuable.