By Surya Tubach and Casey Lesser
The word “curate” has been borrowed by a wide range of industries, so it’s easy to forget what it actually entails. At museums, curators do much more than put together enticing selections of objects. Yes, they’re charged with choosing the art that we see and the way we see it, but they’re also guardians of cultural heritage; experts in niche pockets of art history; interpreters of priceless works of art; and, in some cases, deft navigators of international diplomacy and import laws. They might travel the world to secure artwork loans from private collections, or work with technologists to develop digital tools that enhance the museum experience.
And while we generally think of contemporary art curators as the ones who embrace the digital age and pressing social issues, they’re not the only ones engaging with the cutting-edge. From major encyclopedic museums to university-run institutions, curators who are schooled in the art of ancient Mesopotamia, South Asia, Renaissance Italy, and many other eras and cultures across the globe are expanding and enriching how audiences experience art history. They’re also innovating the way that art is seen, understood, and disseminated.
Below, we share 20 such curators, whose inspiring work ranges from harnessing virtual reality technology and promoting accessibility, to revisiting age-old collections through a 21st-century lens.