Sara Callahan
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The role of the curator has gradually shifted from someone concerned with conservation and care of objects, to a creative force behind thematic exhibitions. The curator thus becomes an auteur in his/her own right. The surge in archival references at the turn of the twenty-first century coincided in large part with the escalation of thematic exhibitions created by well-known curators. Additionally, many of the texts that launched and developed the idea of an archival moment in art practice were written by curators, and the very notion of the archive was theorised as a connective framework that, like curating, brings disparate parts into a whole. This chapter discusses the connection between the notion of curating and the notion of the archive, and considers both how the archival artist is often viewed as a curator, and how the curator is described as being more like an artist. The practice of restaging historical exhibitions and exhibiting well-known curators’ archival material is considered part of the archive art phenomenon and indicative of a desire to historicise and grant authority to curatorial practice. Critical and pragmatic concerns are also shown to be behind various curatorial practices – by artists and curators – as these often purport to exhibit previously hidden or under-represented material.

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Art + Archive

Understanding the archival turn in contemporary art


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