Curatorial Tasks

1. Marketing:

The success of an exhibition depends, in large part, on the way in which is it marketed to the public.


  • Once you have chosen the topic and title of your exhibition, you will need to select a lead image. The work should offer an eloquent distillation of the exhibition's key themes and be striking enough to encourage people to visit your exhibition.
  • You will need to consider how you are going to market your exhibition in advance of its opening. This may include an online presence, podcasts about its progress, tweets, online groups, radio interviews, local events etc. You will also need to establish a timescale for such events; ensuring that you start your promotions early enough, and on an appropriate scale, to deliver a successful exhibition.

2. Broader participation:

Your exhibition has to appeal to a broad audience. Indeed, school visits, children's activities, special events and educational courses play a significant role in any exhibition and need to be planned very carefully.


  • To coincide with your exhibition, plan and prepare a series of educational activities and events. They should be designed to encourage further participation in the exhibition, improve access to the works of art on display and crucially bring the exhibition to life in a creative and engaging manner for children. This should include a mixture of activities within the exhibition space, one off events and ideas for school visits.
    Examples used for the William Etty: Art and Controversy exhibition included: a 'mock nineteenth-newspaper', the opportunity to draw from the 'nude' (a nude statue), a children's book which explained the classical narratives shown in the paintings, and space to write a 'letter to the editor' where visitors would write their own reviews of Etty's art. Activities outside of the exhibition rooms, included: art activities focusing on Etty's statue and a guided tour of the exhibition with two actors playing characters 'outraged' with Etty's controversial art.
  • In addition to meeting the needs of younger visitors, you also need to plan a series of events which will appeal to adult visitors. This is an ideal opportunity to promote, generate interest and raise the profile of your exhibition. This may include a series of lectures or short talks, guided tours, one off evening events, short educational courses, symposiums or scholarly conferences. This is also the perfect opportunity to liaise with local interest groups by hosting collaborative events and inviting guest speakers to speak about the works of art displayed.
    Examples used for the William Etty: Art and Controversy exhibition include: special events (with privileged access to Etty's sketchbooks) led by the lead curator in partnership with English Heritage, The Art Fund and The Times. Weekly guided tours organised and led by the Friends of York Art Gallery. A short course on Etty for the Centre for Life Long Learning at the University of York, guided tours led by York Civic Trust of 'Etty's York' and a symposium attended by leading scholars of nineteenth-century British Art.

3. Designing the Hang:

Key to the success of any exhibition is the logic of the hang (essentially where and how you chose to hang your works of art) in order to best convey the themes of your exhibition.


  • Using the template provided arrange your chosen works in the exhibition space. In order to do this you will need to know the dimensions of your chosen works (ideally with frames, but this information is not always available) and arrange the space in a way that will convey the message of your exhibition in a compelling manner. You may decide to follow a chronological approach or cluster certain works together in order to emphasise a particular idea/theme. Devising an exhibition hang can be a difficult and time consuming task but it is vital to be precise with your measurements, think carefully about the space between works and try to imagine how your exhibition room will look when complete. Asking these simple questions may help you to devise your hang:
    • which images do you see when you first enter?
    • are you making any visual connections between works?
    • is there a logic to the way in which you have arranged your works?

4. Funding your exhibition:

As is true for most exhibitions you will have a limited budget. Big costs include: insurance, the transporting of borrowed works, conservation, publications (such as catalogues), image rights and hanging the works in your gallery. In order to maximise your budget you may want to consider securing external funding.


  • Create a list of potential exhibition sponsors and estimate the amount of money you think you might be able to raise. This may include local groups such as 'Friends' of your gallery or local business who can show their community spirit. You may also want to consider whether your exhibition might travel to other venues, thereby helping you to split any costs with another institution. To help with publication costs you may like to consider organisations who will fund art historical research, such as the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art.