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Curationism: How Curating Took Over the Art World and Everything Else (Exploded VIews)

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  271 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Now that we 'curate' even lunch, what happens to the role of the connoisseur in contemporary culture?

‘Curate’ is now 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 and biennials in a way that can eclipse and assimilate the contributions of individual
Paperback, 144 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by Coach House Books (first published August 18th 2014)
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May 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
In 40 not-very-densely-typed pages of Curationism (Pluto Press), David Balzer manages to undermine one of my more firmly entrenched ideas of myself, as well as my idealisation of work and one of my burgeoning fantasies. He also drags into the light one unpleasant truth I hadn't fully acknowledged.

These are, in turn:
That because I don't buy much, I'm not a mindless consumer (when actually I quite mindlessly consume many things; it's just that they're cheap or free).
That doing something you love a
Jun 29, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: art
based on the premise that everyone wants to be different and calibrates the content of their social persona, the author is semi obsessed (although only at the beginning and the end of the book) that everything is self-consciously curated now. I'm not sure that "curate" is as pervasive a term as the author suggests, but then I'm not trying to write a book on it (fuck no not ever). Subway is not curating a sandwich. Yes, “Subway” is his strawman.

He starts out by giving an extensive (and bitchy) a
Feb 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: art-design
I give Curationsim a 3.5/4, leaving myself the open possibility to add a star if in a few years I’ll read it again, as I intend to. The book focuses on curation as a profession and a recent phenomenon, beginning with an inquiry on the etymological roots of the term and then tracking the use of the world till now, the era in which anything can be curated, from a playlist to a lunch.
The book has an interesting aim and take on the subject, but even given its short length, I found it painfully hard
Michael Belcher
May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a phenomenally impactful read, full of useful history and dense argumentation. My biases leaning towards some of what Balzer would consider the excesses of curation, I had to continually remind myself to be open to his opinions, and I am all the better for it. Balzer does not just sink optimistic notions about curation's value, he blows them out of the water, firing a barrage of both erudite and smartly chosen pop culture references. The only real reason I gave this a 4-star review is b ...more
Sep 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
This was painful to read. I felt in reading this book a severe case of ostentatiousness in Belzer’s writing style. If the goal was to attempt to raise curators and the idea of curation on a pedestal, there would have been more subtle ways to accomplish this. Perhaps this is a symptom of lengthy immersion of oneself in the art world? In describing Karen Love’s Curatorial Toolkit, Belzer quotes her as saying “the process can be exhausting.” The same thought can be applied to getting through his bo ...more
Denna Bee
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was like a bad tinder date, where the first half I had to listen to all the "Cool" things this guy knows, followed by a second half that made it seem like the date was going a lot better, but only comparatively to the first portion. So I end up going all the way aka finishing the book, but really just wasting my time in partaking in it. Disappointed as I love the exploded views series. ...more
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Curationism is split into two parts. In the first section, "Value," the book explores the history of curation and curators in art. The second section, "Work," explores the professionalization of curation as well as the role of curation in modern society.

The first section contains interesting tidbits about the how curators came to be. Balzer does a great job of painting modern art landscape. He does this primarily through the analyzing the role of Hans-Ulrich Obrist.

The second section was more
Jen  (Remembered Reads)
The second section of this book, which deals with the rise of the "everyone is a curator" trend, is an engaging and interesting read. It's very much in line with the other entries in Coach House's Exploded Views series.

The first section, which details the rise of curators and the life cycle of the avant-garde is written is such an absurdly pompous style that at first I assumed it had to be parody. After 90 pages I'd decided it couldn't be (it stops being funny/quirky quickly), and accepted it as
Louis Holstein
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
It took me way to long to finish this short (yet incredibly dense) read, but I finally did! David Balzer provides a abridged art history lesson and the delves into critique of our current obsession with curationism not only in the art world (though he spends considerable time here) but also outside of it as well. I found the read to be refreshing and gave me PLENTY to chew on for the weeks to come. I’ll be revisiting this one from time to time, no question.
Lilla  Jabberwatkins
Feb 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Eye-opening. It draws interesting connections between curatorial practice and our increasingly "curationist" world that I would have never thought to make. Incredibly real- it tells the hard truths all aspiring curators should face before embarking on their journey. ...more
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
The book blabs on and on about "famous" curators, says that curating is a dying field with too many "gallerinas", then ends with rambling nonsense about how contestants on Survivor are curators... It didn't deliver what I expected from the blurb. ...more
Feb 28, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
para tener ni 150 páginas se me ha hecho largo y denso en muchos cachos ...... el tema es muy interesante pero es que ufff cuando el escritor se las da de sabelotodo y suena a "mira cuánto sé sobre esto y tú no" me chirrían los dientes un poco bastante ...more
Santiago Arroyave
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

love it. los estudios culturales son estudios de boutique, para gente rica (u ociosa)! qué cosa este libro :0 !
Jessie B.
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Interesting ideas but kinda dry
Elizabeth Schlatter
Oct 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
To oversimplify, this slim book provides a brief but solid overview of contemporary art curating focusing largely on the past 50-plus years, an examination and interpretation of how "curating" has migrated beyond the art world into everyone's life (largely in the U.S. and Canada), and rants about professionalism of the curatorial "industry," the over application of the word "curate," of super curators like Hans Ulrich Obrist, and, finally, capitalism and Western greed. Not to mention fun digress ...more
Nov 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a sometimes rambling but always coherent and engaging extended essay about how contemporary late capitalism has made us all curators while simultaneously destroying the role of the curator. It does a great job of compellingly discussing the history and shifting meaning of curating, and kind of how it's gone a bit wrong since the 1960s when that generation of curators became all about 'demystifying and then remystifying' art. This is the curator as genius channeling the essence of the art ...more
Alicia Fox
Jul 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You are more than what you like.

This book begins as a tearing-apart of modern art politics and production, which I know nada about.

The second half is disorganized in a way I like, a manic tangent by someone brimming with worthy ideas, the only sort of seriousish conversation I enjoy while drinking. Of course, I wasn't drinking while reading this, but whatevs.

Yet again, I find myself (hypocritically?) drawn to a writer's underlying critique of capitalism. Sure, there's a lot to be said regarding
Mar 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received a free copy of this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

A thought-provoking and entertaining look at the phenomenon of curating. David Balzer examines the rise of curating and its links with the avant-grade movement in art, and how curating developed and spread into museums, fashion, and every part of popular culture. He uses a fascinating range of examples to illustrate his points, from the Early Modern Wunderkammer to Naoshima Island to Gwyneth Paltrow's 'conscious uncou
Mar 23, 2020 marked it as gave-up-on  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: artsy
Why I'm interested in this book at the first place
One of the books listed under Materiality & Value of Art In Flux , a Listopia(link).

What do I think of this book... now that I've done reading it
I was excited initially, because I hoped it's a book on the art of curationism, alas, no, it's about curationism in the art world. Uhm, okay.

1. Below are my accomplishments while reading this book by chapters:

Introduction - completed
Prologue: Who is HOU? - completed
Part 1: Value - 17/70
Part 2: Work -
Aug 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-books
A concise and easy-to-read history of the curating profession. Highly recommended for young artists and hoping-to-be art professionals, as it illuminates and weaves through the politics surrounding contemporary art, curating, art careers, and the education that is "required". It's also very contemporary, ending with a summation of "normcore" and the rebellion from young artists against curation and individuality.

I picked up this book blindly, browsing through the shelves on a slow day - and it
Apr 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canada, essays
first section: very useful and illuminating history of exhibitions, argument being that curation demystifies and then remystifies art while building the brand of the curator & institution, leading to the celebrity curator culture of today (steve martin, lady gaga, miley cyrus, etc., all "curators"). second part: exposé of the actual work curators do, the education system that produces them, argument against "doing what you love", etc. very quick read: great stuff! ...more
Dec 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: curation
A really good extended essay about curation and what curating does. I'm a little sad about the lack of nuance and sources (disclaimed in the introduction and understandable for this genre of book), and I felt like I got lost in the weeds at times, but it does what it sets out to do admirably. The second part (Work) outlined some fundamental problems with the professionalization of certain kinds of knowledge work--which is totally my jam with the whole archives thing. ...more
May 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A surprisingly well-researched but also tongue-in-cheek book! It follows the development of the term 'curationism' linguistically, historically and purely practically. Unlike many scholarly texts, this one is clearly tailored to the more general public and is, thus, quite easy to read. If you have a passion for museum studies and are looking to expand your horizons, this is the book for you! ...more
Nov 07, 2014 rated it liked it
3 and a half? I learned a lot from Curationism, part of Coach House's "Exploded Views" series. The verb "to curate" is definitely one of the most overused buzzwords in recent history. David Balzer takes us through the international art world and how it has created value and status in recent decades before turning to the popularization of the term and the concept.
Mary Rose
Besides the fact that in Balzer's redefinition of curators as, essentially, anyone who makes a choice, it's not a bad read. It's pretty short but follows the rise of curators and ponders over how this bubble will pop in the twenty-first century. Good read for anyone interested in the art world or who is pondering museum studies degrees, but it probably won't enthrall anyone else. ...more
Liz Yerby
Apr 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Very dense but full of intriguing moments in art history, and perspectives I hadn't considered. Not as much about consumer curation as about the curator's and exhibitions roles in art history ...more
Gary Crossey
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From art to the web. Trendsetters will always be present.
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Spot on.
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book! See my review, forthcoming in Momus.
rated it really liked it
Jan 30, 2016
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