Curating Under Pressure : International Perspectives on Negotiating Conflict and Upholding Integrity book cover
1st Edition

Curating Under Pressure
International Perspectives on Negotiating Conflict and Upholding Integrity

ISBN 9780815396192
Published July 14, 2020 by Routledge
264 Pages 12 Color & 17 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Curating Under Pressure breaks the silence surrounding curatorial self-censorship and shows that it is both endemic to the practice and ubiquitous. Contributors map the diverse forms such self-censorship takes and offer creative strategies for negotiating curatorial integrity.

This is the first book to look at pressures to self-censor and the curatorial responses to these pressures from a wide range of international perspectives. The book offers examples of the many creative strategies that curators deploy to negotiate pressures to self-censor and gives evidence of curators’ political acumen, ethical sagacity and resilience over the long term. It also challenges the assumption that self-censorship is something to be avoided at all costs and suggests that a decision to self-censor may sometimes be politically and ethically imperative. Curating Under Pressure serves as a corrective to the assumption that censorship pressures render practitioners impotent. It demonstrates that curatorial practice under pressure offers inspiring models of agency, ingenuity and empowerment.

Curating Under Pressure is a highly original and intellectually ambitious volume and as such will be of great interest to students and academics in the areas of museum studies, curatorial and gallery studies, art history, studio art and arts administration. The book will also be an essential tool for museum practitioners.

Table of Contents

List of figures

List o fplates

Notes on contributors



Part 1: Understanding self-censorship

1 Rethinking the curator’s remit

Janet Marstine

2 Much ado about nothing: policing of controversial art in the UK

Julia Farrington

3 Curating contemporary art in Doha, Qatar: anticipated "conversations,"

undesirable Controversies and state self-censorship

Serena Iervolino

4 No names, no titles, no further explanations

Noam Segal

5 Lady disrupted: self-censorship and the processes of feminist curating in

South Africa

Candice Allison

6 Bishan project: efforts to build a utopian community under authoritarian rule

Ou Ning

Part 2: Negotiating self-censorship

7 Navigating Censorship: a case from Palestine

Jack Persekian

8 Truth or dare? Curatorial practice and artistic freedom of expression in


Özge Ersoy

9 The complexity of taking curatorial risks: case studies from East Asia

Oscar Ho

10 Negotiating self-censorship in the representation of Colombian armed conflict

Cristina Lleras

11 Experimental curatorship in Russia: beyond contemporary art institutions

Nadia Plungian

12 From Carbon Sink to WASTE LAND: a case study in navigating controversy

Susan Moldenhauer

13 The bigger picture: rethinking curatorial approaches to photographs of


Ceciel Brouwer

14 Smart tactics: towards an adaptive curatorial practice

Svetlana Mintcheva


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Janet Marstine is Honorary Associate Professor (retired) at the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, UK. She writes and consults on diverse aspects of museum ethics with a particular interest in supporting the agency of practitioners to make informed ethical decisions. She sat on the Ethics Committee of the UK’s Museums Association from 2014 to 2019, helping to move their approach from one of policing to empowering.

Svetlana Mintcheva is the director of programs at the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), an alliance of US national non-profit organizations. She is the founding director of NCAC’s Arts Advocacy Program, a 20-year-old unique national initiative devoted to the arts and free expression. Dr. Mintcheva frequently speaks and writes on emerging trends in censorship.


"I don’t think it’s possible to underestimate the book’s contribution. The issues it raises are timely, indeed urgent. Finding ways to negotiate self-censorship is imperative, especially in today’s political climate." Alan Wallach, Ralph H. Wark Professor of Art History, The College of William and Mary, USA

"This invaluable book is destined to become a must read for curators as the profession comes to terms with the challenges posed by social media which is being used to amplify pressure on galleries and museums to respond to certain community concerns. How to balance an appropriate response to the rise in activism while adhering to vital principles of free speech has become a key question for curators. This book bravely confronts the unpalatable truth of self-censorship and offers practical guidance." Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney

"An important collection that warns of the pressures facing artists and curators worldwide to self-censor and of the treacherous political water they have to negotiate. A book that is both worrying and hopeful." Kenan Malik, Independent Author and Broadcaster, UK

"In an age of protest when neutrality is both a persistent institutional desire, as well as an impossibility, how does curatorial work ethically navigate such territory? Curating Under Pressure thoughtfully takes on the conundrum of contemporary curatorial work via case studies from a diversity of geographies and ideological frameworks. It deftly maps the pitfalls as well as the masterful ways in which curatorial work can contribute to civic and social discourse at a time when art plays a crucial role in societies' calls for change. An essential read." – Laura Raicovich, Leslie Lohman Museum of Art, USA