The New York Times today reviewed the new Center for Curatorial Leadership in New York, a fellowship programme affiliated with Columbia Business School that offers advanced business training to museum curators. The programme seeks to bridge the gap between curators and director positions they may aspire to, responding to the fact that
… candidates for the top jobs need not only the skills of an art historian, but also those of a chief executive, investment banker, motivational speaker, political infighter and veteran diplomat.
The Center also seeks to ensure that museums will continue to be run by those from a curatorial (and not simply business) background, by equipping curators with the skills of arts managers:
They learned about endowment management and conflict resolution. They heard from executive-search specialists, the kind who could someday help determine the fates of the curators in the room. And they listened to an expert in the booming business of museum marketing — a field many museum leaders view with suspicion — talk about focus groups, audience expectations and branding (“the B word,” as the expert, Arthur Cohen, delicately described it).
The programme’s aimed at experienced curators (8+ years of experience required to apply), as the current fellow list demonstrates. It’s interesting how the training of museum curators has changed little over the past few decades, and remains solidly the domain of the scholar– quite different from the expectations of orchestra and theatre managers, where artform experience may not command the pole position. The question to what extent this type of training will trickle down the curator food-chain is an interesting one…