contemporary practice

Klaus Biesenbach Thinks the Word ‘Curator’ Is ‘Overused’

biesenbach Klaus Biesenbach Thinks the Word Curator Is Overused

Klaus Biesenbach at the Marc Jacobs spring 2013 fashion show. (Courtesy Patrick McMullan)

A bit of refreshing news for all of you on this decidedly bleak Monday comes from the WSJ magazine’s Soapbox column, this week featuring MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach:

“I remember in the 1990s, ‘curator’ sounded a bit odd, then it became incredibly fashionable and now I think might be overused.”

Candid thoughts from a man who, in addition to his directing duties at PS1, has the title of “chief curator-at-large” at the Museum of Modern Art. We couldn’t agree more!

Here are a few other insights from Mr. Biesenbach (the piece, written in his own words, was edited from an interview with The Journal‘s Kelly Crow):

I think the challenge is to understand this completely media-saturated society while keeping up the criteria for what ultimately should go on the time shelf…Museums have to realize that the influential images that might change our lives are not necessarily paintings, drawings and sculptures.

We’ll direct you to a fine counterpoint by Choire Sicha in Bookforum, an essay about Mr. Biesenbach’s foray into social networking called “Klaus Werk.” Referring to MoMA’s Kraftwerk retrospective in the spring, Mr. Sicha writes:

As a proposal, it had all the signs of being a brilliant moment of curation . . . and then all the tickets sold out immediately. It’s tough for a curator to rightsize when his work is really about the conflicts of commerce, cool, and aspiration.

As a kind of rebuttal, here’s Mr. Biesenbach, arguing for the place of commercialism in the realm of art, when it’s appropriate:

[M]useums have to embrace contemporary practice as something as wide-spanning as a German band like Kraftwerk—along with visual performance, music, synesthesia and fashion, and all these possible articulations of boundless creativity whenever they reach a certain innovative excellence.

Hey, it ain’t easy being a curator, which is the word we’ll continue to use until we think of something better.