Transactions in the art world help to build capital in cultural resources; in some cases, entire collections are made available for public viewing that remained hidden in private stock for decades. The sheer massive size of some collections require droves of workers to curate, appraise and otherwise facilitate the sale and transfer of artwork. Students with a graduate level degree, either through online masters degree programs or traditional university campuses, are likely to find work in these industries.
Sotheby’s auctions are renowned not just for the quantity of fine art sold but for the celebrity status of the artists as well. In May 2012, the Washington Post reported a story about Sotheby’s auction of the Gunther Sach’s collection, a German photographer who collected the works of Salvador Dali, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Sotheby’s officials expect the entire collection, which includes 300 individual works of art, will earn 20 million pounds, or $32 million American.
Curators are incredibly important on both ends of these fine art auction transactions. Professionals familiar with curatorial practices prepare the artworks for sale by preserving the art’s quality and protecting it from any damage from excessive light or other environmental issues.
Curators often work on the purchasing end of auctions as well. Groups purchasing artworks for other collections must ensure that a specific work of art fits the aesthetic of the overall collection. Otherwise the piece loses cohesion with the rest of the collection and likely stays in storage for far too long. Curators do the research and physical inspection of an artwork to identify pieces valuable to the collections they curate.
Art collection transactions can also provide for a great deal of interesting controversy, like the intrigue arising from the move of the renowned Barnes Foundation collection to Philadelphia. Dr. Albert C. Barnes was an American chemist who spent a fortune amassing a art collection that includes 2,500 individual works. Upon his death, the collection was held by a trust that was under the personal order of Dr. Barnes never to move the collection from its suburban Merion home.
The collection contains many works by impressionist and modern painters such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Paul Gauguin. Officials with the Barnes Foundation expect the move to the city of Philadelphia to bring a first-year audience of about 250,000, roughly four times the annual draw to the collection’s former Merion lodging.
A well-trained curatorial staff is crucial for ensuring that moves like this occur smoothly. Students with an interest in curatorial studies can pursue those studies all the way to the master’s level. Master’s degrees in arts curation are typically required for most entry-level positions, especially those with renowned arts institutions. Many fine arts organizations, such as the Association of Art Museum Curators, maintain state lists of universities offering graduate degrees in curatorial studies.
There is always business occurring in the fine art industry, and curators are part of the sales staff that ensures business gets done efficiently. Researching your options as an arts curation student online can help you start pursuing a career in the fine arts today.