The idea of curation has long been connected with the art world. We may picture someone making decisions about which art to hang in a gallery, which works fit in with a particular theme, or which artists to endorse or ignore. Curators could provide the breakthrough an artist needed to launch their career, or they could just break the artist. In the article, “Creativity is Dead, Long Live Curation,” Ana Andjelic presents a contemporary context where curation continues to flourish.
In recent years, people have begun to (over)use the word ‘curate’ to describe all manner of trivial events. Someone may claim to have curated their outfit; or they might curate a playlist for a friend; or curate the food they serve at brunch. Despite these pedestrian uses, the idea of curation, in an expanded sense, remains important for culture.
When brands moved from manufacturing products to manufacturing culture, design, luxury and art, curation zoomed onto taste, aesthetics, identity and social status. Curation became the fuel of modern culture: it is indispensable in the cultural landscape where products, people and experiences are all comparable in value: a concert can be equally desirable as a bottle of vintage bourbon as a pair of rare sneakers.Ana Andjelic, “Creativity is Dead, Long Love Curation”
Toward showing the shift to wider usage, Andjelic highlights that the word “curate” comes from a Latin word meaning “to care.” Curators were those who cared for the artwork, to install it safely in a gallery and make sure it is presented to the public properly. This aspect of curation might have taken on additional context as well. In current times, it is commonplace to experience information overload. We are bombarded with images constantly. A modern day curator is someone who cares enough about a particular type of product or context to cull through all the noise and locate some of the best samples and present them in summary to the public.
From straight razors to shoes to movies and more, people who have established themselves as experts (or at least knowledgeable) in a particular area help others. For example, seekers often appeal to rankings to try to find products or art that will yield a positive aesthetic experience. These rankings are essentially curated lists. While they may not be infallible, they help guide consumer decisions. But they also help summarize, according to Andjelic, what’s happening in culture.
Consumers are ready to spend premium on products that belong to a curated collection and that are enriched with cultural and social value.Ana Andjelic, “Creativity is Dead, Long Love Curation”
A good curator does the research for the consumer (of products, art, and experiences). New Products are rarely created, but brands still need to create a feeling of newness to stay popular and current. Curators help achieve this goal. Andjelic explains, “Curators bridge the gap between different taste communities and introduce them to one another. They also often connect people, products and ideas in a way that creates something that’s simultaneously new and familiar.”
Aesthetic taste is a difficult concept. Yet it remains important to understand the popular tastes in a given culture, in order to stay successful in business. From fonts on a website to narratives about products and to the products themselves, businesses need to appeal to aesthetics as one aspect of their strategy. “Being on brand” has become a popular saying recently. It was always necessary for businesses to cultivate their brand. But now it seems more important for them to cultivate their brand by integrating it with ideas, art, narrative, and more. And this newer breed of curators will help.