An artist is now a curator. An artist is now much more seen as a connector of things, a person who scans the enormous field of possible places for artistic attention, and says, What I am going to do is draw your attention to this sequence of things. If you read art history up until 25 or 30 years ago, you’d find there was this supposition of succession: from Verrocchio, through Giotto, Primaticcio, Titian, and so on, as if a crown passes down through the generations. But in the 20th century, instead of that straight kingly line, there’s suddenly a broad field of things that get called art, including vernacular things, things from other cultures, things using new technologies like photo and film. It’s difficult to make any simple linear connection through them.
Now, the response of early modern art history was to say, Oh, OK. All we do is broaden the line to include more of the things we now find ourselves regarding as art. So there’s still a line, but it’s much broader. But what postmodernist thinking is suggesting is that there isn’t one line, there’s just a field, a field through which different people negotiate differently. Thus there is no longer such a thing as “art history” but there are multiple “art stories.” Your story might involve foot-binding, Indonesian medicine rituals, and late Haydn string quartets, something like that. You have made what seems to you a meaningful pattern in this field of possibilities. You’ve drawn your own line. This is why the curator, the editor, the compiler, and the anthologist have become such big figures. They are all people whose job it is to digest things, and to connect them together…
To create meanings - or perhaps “new readings,” which is what curators try to do - is to create. Period. Making something new does not necessarily involve bringing something physical into existence - it can be something mental such as a metaphor or a theory. More and more curatorship becomes inseparable from the so-called art part. Since there’s no longer a golden line through the fine arts, you are acting curatorially all the time by just making a choice to be in one particular place in the field rather than another.