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

Curating Under Pressure

International Perspectives on Negotiating Conflict and Upholding Integrity, 1st Edition

Edited by Janet Marstine, Svetlana Mintcheva


248 pages | 12 Color Illus. | 17 B/W Illus.

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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 isthe 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.


"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 confront 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

"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

Table of Contents



Notes on Contributors



Part One:  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 Explanation

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 Two: 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 Masters of War: 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


About the Editors

Janet Marstine is Honorary Associate Professor (retired) at the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester. She sat on the Ethics Committee of the UK’s Museums Association from 2014-2019, helping to move their approach from one of policing to empowering. She is now a museum ethics consultant.

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.

About the Series

Museum Meanings

Museums have undergone enormous changes in recent decades; an ongoing process of renewal and transformation bringing with it changes in priority, practice and role, as well as new expectations, philosophies, imperatives and tensions that continue to attract attention from those working in, and drawing upon, wide-ranging disciplines.

Museum Meanings presents new research that explores diverse aspects of the shifting social, cultural and political significance of museums and their agency beyond, as well as within, the cultural sphere. Interdisciplinary, cross-cultural and international perspectives and empirical investigation are brought to bear on the exploration of museums’ relationships with their various publics (and analysis of the ways in which museums shape – and are shaped by – such interactions).

Theoretical perspectives might be drawn from anthropology, cultural studies, art and art history, learning and communication, media studies, architecture and design and material culture studies, amongst others. Museums are understood very broadly – including art galleries, historic sites and other cultural heritage institutions – as are their relationships with diverse constituencies.

The Series Editors invite proposals that explore the political and social significance of museums and their ethical implications. If you have an idea for a book that you think would be appropriate for the series, then please contact the Series Editors to discuss further.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / General
ART / Museum Studies
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Library & Information Science / General