Curators are the bedrock of the museum industry, akin to doctors at hospitals, faculty at colleges, musicians at symphonies and chefs at restaurants. While many serve critical roles in support of these individuals in ways that are not always visible (someone working in the IT department of a college, for example, who happens to curate these posts you read here), there is typically one central role that fuels the business of the institution.

What does a curator do? And how do they get trained, especially for areas such as modern art where subdomains have yet to be invented? This article provides a perspective on foundations to become a curator, noting in the end the trick is to just go out there and do it.

“In the studio of a contemporary artist, the conversation isn’t really about whether or not their work of art will be relevant forever,” notes Laura Hoptman, a curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “But if you’re building an institutional collection that will be significant more than five years down the road, you have to look at things with different eyes.”

Many of the curators we surveyed about their educational experiences did home in on one message: If you want to succeed as a curator, you must begin with a solid grounding in art history. So what, exactly, are the right skills to succeed as a curator? And how should students work to cultivate them? […]