How to Become an Art Gallery Curator


To become an art gallery curator, you typically need a master’s or doctorate degree in art history or another relevant field. You may find some entry-level opportunities in this field with a bachelor’s degree, and from there you may be able to work your way up to a position as a curator. Competition is fierce however, and graduate degrees are generally preferred.


If you want to work in this field, you first need to determine if it's a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. Does the following describe you?


• You have a keen interest in art

• You are highly organized and are able to direct the work of others

• You enjoy taking a methodical approach to work activities

• You are decisive, accountable and results-oriented

• You are interested in pursuing graduate-level education

• You are able to undertake research and academically-focused work

• You are interested in a career that offers you a variety of work tasks


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as an art gallery curator. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, educational requirements, salary expectations, a list of employer types and much more!



Education You Might Need

The educational requirements for this profession vary by the size and type of the gallery, and by region. Generally speaking, the larger the institution, the more education you will need in order to qualify as that institution’s curator.


For example, smaller institutions may hire applicants for assistant curator jobs or even curator jobs who only have a bachelor’s degree, whereas many medium-sized and larger institutions generally require curators to have a master’s or doctoral degree in a field such as art history, history, classical studies, fine arts, or a related field.


Success Tip: Seeking guidance from an existing art gallery curator before you enroll in school is a great way to gain information regarding the specific educational and work experience requirements of this career. 





Art Gallery Curator Job Description

Art gallery curators are responsible for planning, organizing and managing art exhibits within an art gallery. Their role also involves the acquisition and care of paintings, sculptures, and other pieces of art, as well as the supervision of gallery employees.


Art gallery curators are responsible for sourcing, acquiring (purchasing or borrowing) and caring for the paintings and objects in their organization's collection. This involves examining them (or overseeing their examination) in order to determine their condition, authenticity and value.


They must also arrange these art pieces for display in exhibitions and showings, and maintain records about their collections. They must also liaise with art historians, conservators and other experts about the best way to display and preserve and maintain the pieces in their collection.


Those that work in smaller exhibits may have a different set of responsibilities than those working in larger galleries. For example, at a smaller institution, a curator may be responsible for writing all the pamphlets and information panels that accompany an exhibition. Whereas in a larger institution, a curatorial assistant may be responsible for the preparation of such information.



Typical Job Duties

The job duties of an art gallery curator are likely to include:


• Researching, identifying and cataloguing paintings and other art pieces

• Ensuring paintings and other art pieces are stored in the proper conditions

• Organizing displays and exhibitions

• Overseeing the promotion and marketing of displays and exhibitions

• Answering visitors’ questions

• Preparing pamphlets and information panels that accompany an exhibit

• Negotiating the loan or purchase of paintings and other items

• May be responsible for supervising or managing staff

• May be responsible for overseeing security of the exhibit and gallery as a whole 



Who Employs Them?

The following types of organizations typically employ art gallery curators:


• Colleges and universities

• Municipal, regional and national art galleries

• Small and large independent art galleries

• Large companies that house private art collections



Skills Needed

In order to be effective in this occupation, and perform your job duties with competence, you need to posses a certain set of skills, including:


• Knowledge regarding the organization and function of art galleries

• Proficient with related software

• Accuracy when cataloging items

• Knowledge of documenting and labeling paintings and other art pieces

• Able to undertake research and academically focused work

• Able to plan a budget a work within it

• Able to effectively negotiate the loan or purchase of an art pieces

• A creative flair for displays, exhibitions and events

• Able to develop and foster strong relationships with artists and other stakeholders

• Able to recruit, train and supervise staff

• Knowledge in specialized area of gallery or exhibit 



Characteristics of Successful Art Gallery Curators

In order to enjoy performing the duties involved in this work, you'll need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your job duties is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which usually leads to having a long and successful career.


• A natural curiosity and a passionate interest in art (possibly in a specialized area)

• A creative flair for devising displays and exhibitions

• Able to build effective professional relationships

• Able to work with diverse populations

• Good interpersonal, teamwork, facilitation, consultation and conflict resolution skills

• Enjoy advising and coordinating the work of others

• Enjoy taking a methodical and detailed approach to work activities

• Enjoy work that involves a wide variety of responsibilities





Experience You'll Need

The experience needed to become an art gallery curator depends on your level of education, as well as the specific opportunities that are available.


Many curators begin their careers with an educational foundation in a relevant field, followed by gaining work experience in a role similar to museum curator, although with less responsibility. Such roles may include departmental collections manager, curatorial assistant, manager of education, or assistant curator.


Smaller galleries may hire you with little career experience, whereas larger galleries typically require you to have plenty of career experience. In some cases, you may also be able to compensate for having less career experience if you have a more advanced education, and vice versa. 



Typical Salary Level

The salary level in this profession can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Their level of education

• Their level of experience and aptitude

• The region in which they work

• The size of the organization for which they work


Art Gallery Curator Salary Canada (Alberta Figures Only): According to the 2019 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Conservators and Curators occupational group earn an average salary of $72,973 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories. 


Art Gallery Curator Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers occupational group is $44,410 per year.



Work Environment

Working Hours: Many art gallery curators work full-time hours, although part-time and seasonal work may be available. They typically work during normal, weekday working hours, although their work may include evenings and weekends. For example, when planning a new exhibition, the working hours of an art gallery curator often extend into the evenings as weekends, in order to prepare for the opening date.


Work Setting: Art gallery curators perform their work in a variety of settings, including offices, storage areas, exhibition galleries, and in the community at large. Curators that are employed by large institutions may be required to travel extensively, in order to evaluate potential additions to their gallery, as well as to organize exhibits and to conduct research. However, for curators in small institutions, travel may be rare.


Working Conditions: Some lifting and carrying from time to time, such as moving crates and boxes of exhibits or paintings. Art gallery curators often work with artwork and other valuable items that need to be handled with care, and may require security. Although curators spend some of their time working alone, they also spend time working closely with other staff, as well as with representatives of other organizations. 



Job Postings - Current Opportunities

Our job board below has "Art Gallery Curator" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.



Similar Careers

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to this one, as they involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Art Historian

Curatorial Assistant

Gallery Owner

Museum Curator




Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of this career.


Occupations in Alberta:Curator.” (December 19, 2016). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved October 23, 2019.

Education, Training, and Library:Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved October 23, 2019.

Job Profiles:Art Gallery Curator.” (n.d.). National Careers Service website. Retrieved October 23, 2019.

Resources:History Careers at a Glance: Exploring Museum Curator and Museum Director Jobs and Salaries.” John Kordela (July 30, 2019). Norwich University Online website. Retrieved October 23, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming an Art Gallery Curator

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming an art gallery curator can be found using our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for working in this field. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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