Idle Arts: Reconsidering the Curator on JSTOR


In this article, I propose a way for philosophical aesthetics to make sense of the curator's work and specifically its claim to creativity and value making. My thesis is that selecting art should be thought of as a fine art in itself. This thesis, in various formulations, has been a source of controversy for art historians, critics, and theorists for more than a century. Even though philosophers have barely addressed the issue, philosophical aesthetics has been complicit in the prevalent modes of resistance. The unspoken reason that various figures of the artworld find it problematic to identify curators as artists is that the divisions of labor they protect are inherently normative. The inadvertent application of this normativity in equal measure affects curators who style themselves as artists. I offer a critique of the historical and philosophical underpinnings of this normative picture, which sets the stage for a reconsideration of curatorship and its stake on a place among the rest of the fine arts.

Established in 1942 by the American Society for Aesthetics, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism publishes current research articles, special issues, and timely book reviews in aesthetics and the arts. The term "aesthetics," in this connection, is understood to include all studies of the arts and related types of experience from a philosophical, scientific, or other theoretical standpoint. "The arts" are understood broadly to include not only traditional forms such as music, literature, theater, painting, architecture, sculpture, and dance, but also more recent additions such as film, photography, earthworks, performance art, as well as the crafts, decorative arts, digital and electronic production, and various aspects of popular culture.

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