How to become an Art Gallery Curator. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does an Art Gallery Curator do?
Art gallery curators manage collections of paintings and objects of artistic, historical and general interest.
As an art gallery curator, your work would include:
- researching, identifying and cataloguing paintings and other items
- making sure paintings and other items are stored in the right conditions
- organising displays
- answering visitors’ questions
- giving talks to groups or school parties
- finding ways of attracting visitors to the gallery
- negotiating funding and the loan of paintings and other items.
You may also be responsible for staffing issues, insurance, security and publicity.
You would usually work around 36 hours a week, probably with some weekend work. Part-time work may be available.
You may have to do some lifting and carrying, moving crates and boxes of exhibits or paintings.
How much does an Art Gallery Curator earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Salaries for curators can range from £21,000 to over £28,000 a year.
- Senior curators can earn from £29,000 to over £39,000.
Pay scales for curators vary depending on whether they work for a large national gallery or a small local one. Private galleries often pay a basic salary with commission on sales. Salaries in London are usually higher than elsewhere.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You would usually need a degree in a relevant subject such as art or art history.
To search for degree courses, see the UCAS website. You should check with colleges and universities for their entry requirements.
You may also need a postgraduate qualification, which will usually take one year to complete. To search for postgraduate courses see the Hobsons Postgrad website. Visit the Education sections of Sotheby’s and Christie’s websites for details of the postgraduate courses they run.
- Hobsons Postgrad
Before you begin looking for a job, it is advisable to gain some volunteering experience in a gallery or heritage property. See the Museums Association website for advice on finding volunteering opportunities.
- Museums Association
Training and Development
Once you are working as an art gallery curator you can work towards the following qualifications:
- NVQ Level 3 in Cultural Heritage Operations
- NVQ Level 4 in Cultural Heritage
- NVQ Level 5 in Cultural Heritage Management.
You can add to your skills and knowledge by attending short courses run, for example, by regional museums councils (see the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council website for details), private training providers and specialist groups.
- Museums, Libraries and Archives Council
As a member of the Museums Association you can join their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme.
- Museums Association
Skills and Knowledge
- a keen interest in art, and possibly in a specialist area
- good organisational skills
- the ability to manage people and resources
- a careful approach and a high level of attention to detail
- computer skills
- creative flair for devising displays and exhibitions
- a good standard of written English
- strong communication and ‘people’ skills for dealing with the public, giving talks and producing information.
You could work in galleries ranging from large public sector and national institutions, such as the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery, to very small independent galleries. Many universities also have galleries, and some large companies employ curators for their art collections. Competition for jobs is strong.
You would usually have more opportunities for promotion in large galleries. If you work in a small gallery you may need to move around the country to gain experience and progression.
You may find the following links useful for job vacancies and general reading :
- CV Library
- Total Jobs
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