Art Term

Artist-curator

An artist-curator is a practising artist who also curates shows or runs not-for-profit spaces from which they exhibit their art and that of other artists

Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas, ‘The Last Night of the Shop 3.7.93’ 1993
Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas
The Last Night of the Shop 3.7.93 1993
Tate
© Tracey Emin & Sarah Lucas

Inspired by the artist led initiatives in New York in the 1960s, these spaces are often housed in temporary places – shops, warehouses, soon-to-be demolished buildings – which can be inhabited for free or for a nominal rent for a short period of time.

The artist-curator tends to remain outside the commercial art world, and within a community of artists – often ones with whom they studied, or of a similar generation – who are frustrated by the perceived impenetrability of the art world.

For some artist-curators, it is the freedom to create art, control its output and have a say in how it is exhibited that appeals, for others it is a means of survival, a way of gaining exposure for the art that they and others do.

Damien Hirst, ‘Controlled Substance Key Painting’ 1994
Damien Hirst
Controlled Substance Key Painting 1994
Tate / National Galleries of Scotland
© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2017. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd

In the 1990s the art scene in London was re-energised by artist-run exhibitions and galleries. Taking advantage of the cheap empty shops, offices and warehouses which the collapse of the stocks and property market in 1987 had made readily available, young artists were able to create exhibiting opportunities for themselves outside the established gallery system.

Perhaps the best known of these initiatives was Freeze an exhibition organised by a group of young artists led by art student Damien Hirst in an empty London Port Authority building in London’s Docklands. Freeze was a phenomenal succes and was the springboard for the careers of many of the artists known as the YBAs (Young British Artists). Other significant artist-run initiatives established in London around that time include galleries City Racing and Matt’s Gallery.

RELATED TERMS AND CONCEPTS

Art Term

Young British Artists (YBAs)

The label Young British Artists (YBAs) is applied to a loose group of British artists who began to exhibit together ...

EXPLORE THIS TERM

Watch

Artist as Gallerist – Roland Penrose Artists' talks video recordings

Matthew Higgs is joined by Sally Barker, Jeremy Ackerman and Matt Hale and City Racing to discuss the rise of ...
Watch

Tracey Emin discusses The Shop

As part of the YBA generation, Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas opened the 'The Shop' in 1993, a project created ...

Read

Why artists make good curators

How do artists approach the challenge of curation? As well as showing some of his recent large, highly coloured sculptures ...