AHT2712 - Curating: Histories and theories - 2019

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.


Art, Design and Architecture

Organisational Unit

Department of Fine Art

Chief examiner(s)

Associate Professor Tara McDowell


Associate Professor Tara McDowell

Unit guides



  • Second semester 2019 (On-campus)


12 credit points at first year level in Art History & Theory, or Theory of Art & Design, or Visual Culture, or permission from the Unit Coordinator.




This unit will offer students an introduction to the most important and influential theories of curating and provide an overview of the history of curating from the mid-18th century on. Although the unit will focus on curating that involves art objects and art practices through a history of exhibitions, it will also consider historical and contemporary instances of curating that do not involve art objects (from the Wunderkammer to curating performance) or approach curating as an expanded field of practice that may be activist, temporal, decolonising, and so on. The overall aim of the unit is to provide students with a working vocabulary so that they can ask critical questions of the contemporary practice of curation.

Lectures will largely provide a chronological history of curating, starting with early museums and collections, but with an emphasis on the rise of curating as a practice and the figure of the curator from the mid-1970s on. A number of key instances of curating (particular exhibitions and international biennales and triennials) will be selected for analysis. In this way, students will be given both an overall history of art curating and a way of thinking critically about the term's almost infinite expansion in the present. The unit aims to provide students with an appropriate working method for curating they might undertake in the future and a way of thinking about issues of curating if they choose to work in a museum or gallery context or write about art. In some ways, the unit is intended as complementary to the more practice-based unit Curating: Practices, although this is not its only possible outcome.


Upon successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Identify the key theoretical questions involved in the practice of art curating;
  2. Demonstrate a broad historical overview of the practice of curating;
  3. Elaborate key moments in the history of curating and of prominent historical and contemporary curators;
  4. Apply this knowledge to any practical act of curating they might undertake;
  5. Engage with the issues and theories of curating insofar as it applies to their art practice or study of art history.


100% in-semester assessment

Workload requirements

12 hours per week including 3 contact hours plus 9 hours of independent study, or equivalent.

See also Unit timetable information