Course syllabus




Art Writing and Curatorial Practice

SEMESTER 1 and 2, 2018

30 points

Course Convenor and Teacher:

Linda Tyler


Course delivery format:

2 hour lectorial with 1 hour seminar

(Timetable and room details can be viewed on Student Services Online)

 Summary of Course Description:              

 This course explores the recent history of curatorial practice and writing about contemporary art.  It will expose students interested in working with art galleries and museums to professional opportunities through a placement in a local institution or with an arts organisation, and will develop comprehensive art writing skills for a range of purposes – promotional, critical, educational and curatorial - with the aim of each student taking away a writing portfolio which they can use in job applications.

In the first semester, the focus is theoretical, with lectures and readings which will develop an understanding of how curatorial practice has changed in the last 30 years. New Zealand as well as international examples will be studied.

A 60 hour curatorial placement can be undertaken in the inter-semester break, and the experience gained used as the basis for an essay submitted for assessment.

In the second semester, the course takes a practical, workshop-type approach to art writing with lectures on the history of art criticism, and development of understanding of the different modes of art writing from exhibition reviewing through catalogue essays and exhibition labels, to blogs and tweets.

Course content and structure:

  1. History of Curatorial Practice:

From Week 1 to Week 10, the recent history of contemporary curatorial practice will be outlined through a series of lectures and associated readings. Responses to the readings are due weekly, and are assessed (see Assessment Outline).

  1. Group exhibition and catalogue entry writing:

The practical group exercise for the course involves curating an exhibition from the University of Auckland Art Collection for display in Old Government House. A short 1000 word piece of writing by each student will be published in the catalogue for this exhibition. This writing, and involvement in curating the exhibition will also be assessed (see Assessment Outline).

  1. Art Writing Practice:

In the second semester, art writing exercises will alternate with the dissection of great art writing to give you a thorough understanding of how to establish an art writing style and express yourself with confidence. Participation in the classes will be assessed (see Assessment Outline).

Curatorial Placements/Curatorial Practice:

A major component of the assessment of learning in this course is based on a 5000 word essay which relates to an aspect of curatorial or art writing practice based on your experiences in a placement.

In order to develop the knowledge and research base for this essay, students may choose to EITHER

  1. undertake a practice-based Curatorial Placement for 60 hours during the inter-semester break,


  1. negotiate a different timing for the placement with the provider and lecturer.

This is assessed by a 3000 word piece of writing due midnight on 1 August.

 What is required for the Curatorial Placement?

There is an opportunity to undertake a curatorial placement with participating galleries, museums, libraries, archives, online art promotion sites, magazines and radio stations in Auckland. This placement may take place during the Inter-Semester break (from the end of lectures, Friday 1 June to the beginning of Semester 2, Monday 16 July) and will require 60 hours of participation. The placement is assessed through a 3000 word piece of writing, providing evidence of the writing undertaken during the placement and reflecting on the curatorial or writing style developed for the placement. This is due to be submitted online by midnight on Wednesday 1 August(see Assessment Outline).

Classes take place on Fridays 11am-1pm in Arts One, Building 206, Seminar Room 302.

The Museums and Cultural Heritage Seminar Series is held in Arts One, Building 206, Room 220.

There will be visits to art galleries as part of the timetabled classes.

There is a significant mark given for class participation (10%) which is for attendance and engagement. If you can’t make a class, please let me know beforehand by email. 

Course coordinator: Linda Tyler 021912119 or (09)9235189


To complete this course students must enrol in ARTHIST 734 A and B, or ARTHIST 734.


 Course outcomes:

A student who successfully completes this course will have the opportunity to:

  • study art curatorial practices from the last fifty years and apply them to an exhibition-making situation
  • understand the basic aspects of art curation using objects to make an exhibition
  • acquire skills in writing reading responses, critical thinking and making oral presentations

 Assessment Summary:

Weighting of assignments

32% for 8 x 500 word reading responses submitted on CANVAS weekly by midnight on Wednesdays following the first lecture in the semester.

8% for 2 x 500 word exhibition reviews (Manifesto at the AAG) and Artspace, due to be submitted on CANVAS Wednesday 2 May at midnight and Wednesday 18 July at midnight.

20% for 1000 word catalogue entry for Women's Suffrage 125th exhibition at Old Government House due Wednesday 22 August at midnight.

20% for 3000 word Curatorial Placement essay due Wednesday 1 August at midnight.

20% for 2000 word Seminar Presentation due in written form on the Wednesday after the 50 minute oral presentation.

10% for Class Participation and Seminar attendance assessed by involvement in discussion (self-assessed) and submitted on the day of the last class 19 October at 11am.


Weekly Topics:

  1. Introduction
  2. Beyond the White Cube (Friday 9 March) exploring exhibitions in public space, from traditional sculpture shows to citywide biennials to community-based social practice exhibitions that unfolded over long periods of time.
  3. Artists as Curators as Artists (Friday 16 March) examining projects by artists who were intervening in collections as acts of institutional critique, or treating the exhibition as an artistic medium.
  4. Across the Fields and Beyond the Disciplines (Friday 23 March) surveying exhibitions that merged art with content from other fields such as architecture, science, and the mass media.
  5. New Lands (Friday 20 April) dealing with exhibitions that attempted global surveys of contemporary art and culture, including the landmark Magiciens de la Terre and several others that developed as direct or indirect responses to it.
  6. AUCKLAND ART GALLERY VISIT corner of Wellesley and Kitchener Streets, Manifesto an exhibition by Julian Rosefeldt (Friday 27 April) Exhibition visit AAG
  7. Biennial Years (Friday 4 May) looks at the ever-increasing role of the international art biennial, which has been crucial in forming the now-pervasive image of the roving international curator.
  8. New Forms (Friday 11 May) takes stock of exhibitions that attempted to rejuvenate or even overthrow certain well-known exhibition format: group shows, biennials, and collections.
  9. Others Everywhere (Friday 18 May) focuses on exhibitions that dealt with issues related to race, nationality, class, gender, and sexual orientation and Tomorrows Talents Today identifies exhibitions that were formative to certain artist groups or affiliations, such as Nicolas Bourriaud’s Traffic, which was highly important to artists associated with what was subsequently termed “relational aesthetics”.
  10. History and Contemporaneity, (Friday 25 May) a series of exhibitions that set a new art-historical agenda through a greater consideration of female and non-Western artists as well as previously underrepresented art forms such as performance and conceptual work.
  11. ARTSPACE GALLERY VISIT 300 Karangahape Road (Friday 1 June).

12. Seminar Presentation: Art Criticism Sarah Buxton

13. Seminar Presentation: Writing Difference Florence Esson

14. Seminar Presentation: Blogs and informal writing Annie-Rose Ferguson

15. Seminar Presentation: Cult art writers Amy Kim

16. Seminar Presentation: Catalogue essay formats Anna van den Berg

17. Seminar Presentation: Exhibition reviewing modes Finn McCahon-Jones

18. Class exhibition installation

19. Seminar Presentation: Promotional texts and short labels Kirsten Raynor

20. Seminar Presentation: Bad writing Eden Tongia

21. Seminar Presentation: Stylists Miao Xu

22. Seminar Presentation: Developing a personal writing style Irina Teyt

23. Seminar Presentation: Indigenous issues in curating and writing Alice Karetai

Prescribed Texts:


 Recommended Texts:

Bruce Altshuler, The Avant-Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the 20th Century, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1998.

Bruce Altshuler, Salon to Biennial: Exhibitions That Made Art History, Volume 1: 1863-1959, Phaidon Press, London, 2008; Exhibitions That Made Art History, Volume II: 1962-2002, Phaidon Press, London, 2013.

Gail Anderson, Reinventing the Museum: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on the Paradigm Shift, AltaMira Press, Berkeley, 2004.

Tony Bennett, Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics, Routledge, London, 1995

Beatrice von Bismarck, Jörn Schafaff, and Thomas Weski, eds., Cultures of the Curatorial, Sternberg Press, Berlin, 2012.

Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, Les presses du reel, Dijon, 1998.

Marcia Brennan, Curating Consciousness: Mysticism and the Modern Museum, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2010.

Sarah Chaplin and Alexandra Stara, eds., Curating Architecture and the City, Routledge, London, 2009.

Sarah Cook and Beryl Graham, Rethinking Curating: Art after New Media, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2010.

James Cuno, ed., Whose Muse?: Art Museums and the Public Trust, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2006.

Douglas Crimp, On the Museum’s Ruins, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1995.

Claire Doherty, ed., Situation, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2009.

Carol Duncan, Civilising Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums, Routledge, London, 1995.

Exhibition Histories (series), Afterall Books, London, 2010-ongoing.

Elena Filipovic, Marieke van Hal, Solveig Ovstebo, eds., The Biennial Reader, Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2010.

Viv Golding and Wayne Modest, eds., Museums and Communities: Curators, Collections and Collaboration, Bloomsbury, London, 2013.

Zoe Gray, Miriam Kathrein, Nicolaus Schafhausen, Monika Szewcyk, and Ariadne Urlus, eds., Rotterdam Dialogues: The Critics, The Curators, The Artists, Witte de With Publishers, Rotterdam, 2010.

Reesa Greenberg, Bruce W. Ferguson, and Sandy Nairne, eds., Thinking About Exhibitions, Routledge, London, 1996.

Jens Hoffmann, ed., Ten Fundamental Questions of Curating, Mousse Publishing, Milan, 2013.

Selma Holo and Mari-Tere Alvarez, eds., Beyond the Turnstile: Making the Case for Museums and Sustainable Values, AltaMira Press, Berkeley, 2009.

Grant Kester, Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art, University of California, Berkeley, 2009.

Joasia Krysa, ed., Curating Immateriality: The Work of the Curator in the Age of Network Systems, Autonomedia, New York, 2006.

Carin Kuoni, ed., Words of Wisdom: A Curator’s Vade Mecum, Independent Curators International, New York, 2001.

Miwon Kwon, One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2004.

Steven D. Lavine, Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, Smithsonian Books, Washington, DC, 1991.

Amy K. Levin, ed., Gender, Sexuality and Museums: A Routledge Reader, Routledge, London, 2010.

Maria Lind, ed., Performing the Curatorial Within and Beyond Art, Sternberg Press, Berlin, 2012.

Sharon MacDonald, A Companion to Museum Studies, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, 2010.

Paula Marincola, ed., Curating Now: Imaginative Practice/Public Responsibility, Philadephia Exhibitions Initiative, Philadelphia, 2002.

Jean-Paul Martinon, The Curatorial: A Philosophy of Curating, I.B. Tauris, London, 2013.

Brian O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2000.

Paul O’Neill, The Culture of Curating and the Curating of Culture(s), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2012.

Paul O’Neill, ed., Curating Subjects, Open Editions/Occasional Table, London, 2007.

Paul O’Neill and Mick Wilson, eds., Curating and the Educational Turn, Open Editions/De Appel Arts Center, London and Amsterdam, 2010.

Hans Ulrich Obrist, A Brief History of Curating, JRP Ringier, Zurich, 2008.

Hans Ulrich Obrist and April Lamm, ed., Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Curating*But Were Afraid to Ask, Sternberg Press, Berlin, 2011.

Ross Parry, ed., Museums in a Digital Age, Routledge, London, 2009.

Christiane Paul, ed., New Media in the White Cube and Beyond: Curatorial Models for Digital Art, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2008.

The Producers: Contemporary Curators in Conversation (series), Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, 2000-ongoing.

Steven Rand and Heather Kouris, eds., Cautionary Tales: Critical Curating, apexart, New York, 2007.

Judith Rugg and Michele Sedgwick, eds., Issues in Curating Contemporary Art and Performance, Intellect Ltd, Bristol, 2012.

Kitty Scott, ed., Raising Frankenstein: Curatorial Education and its Discontents, Koenig Books, Cologne, 2011.

Terry Smith, Thinking Contemporary Curating, Independent Curators International, New York, 2012.

Terry Smith, Okwui Enwezor, and Nancy Condee, eds., Antinomies of Art and Culture: Modernity, Postmodernity, Contemporaneity, Duke University Press, Durham, NC, 2008.

Mary Anne Staniszewski, The Power of Display: A History of Exhibition Installations at the Museum of Modern Art, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2001.

Carolee Thea, On Curating: Interviews with Ten International Curators, Distributed Art Publishers, New York, 2009.

Melanie Townsend, ed., Beyond the Box: Diverging Curatorial Practices, The Banff Center Press, Banff, Alberta, 2003.

Barbara Vanderlinden and Elena Filipovic, eds., The Manifesta Decade: Debates on Contemporary Art Exhibitions and Biennals in Post-Wall Europe, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA2001.

 Workload and deadlines for submission of coursework:           

The University of Auckland's expectation is that students spend 10 hours per week on a 15-point course, including time in class and personal study. Students should manage their academic workload and other commitments accordingly. Deadlines for coursework are set by course convenors and will be advertised in course material. You should submit your work on time. In extreme circumstances, such as illness, you may seek an extension but you may be required to provide supporting information before the assignment is due. Late assignments without a pre-approved extension may be penalised by loss of marks – check course information for details.

Course summary:

Date Details