Selection & Display

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Tarnya Cooper: Yeah, I don’t think people necessarily do to create a show, or how you put a show on.
Paul Moorhouse: Doing a complex project like an exhibition involves a lot of people.
Sarah Tinsley: Essentially you start with an idea, and if it captivates us, if it’s interesting, if it’s something different, if there’s new research then that’s what interests us.
Alice Workman: What you want is not too many of the same size next to each other, too many which are black and white next to each other. There’s all the aesthetic things to take into consideration when we’re curating an exhibition, including looking at the content and the mediums of each work through to the sizes and the colour and the subject matters.
Tim Craven: Works talk to each other. There are clusters of work which relate, rather than looking at works in isolation it’s about that, and it’s about the matter of interpreting and getting the stories across.
Female Student 1: You can create a story with the pictures. especially the famous people, because everybody knows their stories, so you play around a little with their stories, you can make one for the gallery.
Tarnya Cooper: A lot of it is research. Thinking, what is the show about and what things are going to tell that story to the public?
Sarah Tinsley: It’s from that moment of saying yes! that everything starts to happen.
Alice Workman: You have to think about many, many different elements, including practical aspects, such as the access, the lighting, the conditions for each space within the gallery. If we have plinths in the space what might we have to consider?
Students: Health and safety.
Paul Moorhouse: You have to think about many, many different elements, including practical aspects, such as the access, the lighting, the conditions for each space within the gallery.
Karl Lydon: Working with the pictures can be a little nerve-wracking because some of the frames are very, very old as are the paintings, things are fragile, and valuable.
Ambrose Scott-Moncrief: We have to make sure that when receive something it leaves in the same condition.
Paul Moorhouse: When the pictures are taken up and put on the wall, there’s this magic that happens and they spring to life.
David McNeff: I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but it’s a job well done. That what we’re here to do, and we’ve done it, done it properly.
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I see a curator as a catalyst, generator and motivator… and a bridge builder, creating a bridge to the public.

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director Exhibitions & Programmes and Director of International Projects, Serpentine Gallery, London

Displaying a selection of objects and weaving a story around them is at the heart of what curating is all about. The best exhibitions have a key message to share and show things from an interesting, innovative and new perspective. You make choices about what to show, and what not to show. You decide what your audience sees and, through context and interpretation, influence how they see things. Your job is about the art of storytelling.


Visit an exhibition. Think about the story being told. What is the curator trying to say through the selection of images or objects on display? How does an exhibition work?


In take months or years for a curator to plan an exhibition in a national gallery. You will have much less time for your own exhibition, but many of the planning processes will be the same.


Putting on an exhibition involves team work. As curator, the process might start with your vision – but only by working with design, marketing and events can it be realised.


How do you measure the success of an exhibition? You will need to gain an insight into the audience reaction. Did they ‘get’ what you were trying to say?

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Curate an Exhibition?

Emma is Assistant Exhibitions Officer at Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery. Ask her your top 10 ten questions about curating and organising successful exhibitions.

  1. Where do you get exhibition ideas from?
  2. How do you decide which exhibitions to show?
  3. How do you research the exhibition content?
  4. What is the most important thing to remember?
  5. What about the audience?
  6. How do you work out what goes where?
  7. Who installs the exhibition?
  8. What were the challenges of the Writers exhibition?
  9. What were the challenges of the Comedians exhibition?
  10. How do you evaluate and exhibition?