Exhibition Changeover: 8 Days in the Life of a Curatorial Assistant

What does a curator actually do? Well, there’s a lot of sitting at a computer, designing, digitizing, cataloguing, and emailing, but every six weeks or so, working life gets a lot more… physical. You ditch your shirt and shoes for your overalls; you swap your PowerPoint for your power tools, and you transform the gallery for the next exhibition.

Visual Diary
Visual Diary

Last week, the John Addyman exhibition in the large gallery became Freddie s’Jacobs’ space, and in the small gallery, Graham Sutherland’s prints took the place of Annie Williams’ still lives. I kept a diary of the changeover process to show you that being a curator is not just about rubbing your chin and sounding arty-farty. John Addyman: Whose Line is it Anyway?

John Addyman exhibition
John Addyman exhibition

Freddie s’Jacob: Mostly People

Freddie s'Jacob exhibition
Freddie s’Jacob exhibition

Day 1 – Wednesday: Sorting out sales, taking down the pictures, turning the mirror-plates around and tidying up.

Taking pictures down
Sorting sales

Day 2 – Thursday: Packing pictures, greeting artists and helping them pack their vans.

Ready to go back in the van

Day 3 – Friday: Renovate galleries, with occasional trips to the local hardware store. Fill cracks and holes in walls, sand them down.

Filling holes

Day 4 – Monday: Start painting gallery. (This doesn’t happen every time.)

The painting is well under way

Day 5 – Tuesday: Finish painting, screw mirror-plates to frames and start hanging in the small gallery.


Day 6 – Wednesday: Finish hanging in the small gallery, paint out mirror plates and decide on an order for the drawings in the large gallery. Make a start on the text panels by writing the transcriptions of the interview with the artist from the audio files.

Jen working on her audio files

Day 7 – Thursday: Hang the picture in the large gallery, paint out mirror plates, tidy away tools and hoover the floor.

A nicely renovated gallery

Day 8 – Friday: Print out labels and stick to foam sheets, blu-tack labels to walls, go to Morrisons and buy drinks and snacks for the exhibition opening, prepare glasses for guests, attend the opening, and enjoy mingling with fellow art-lovers with a glass of wine.

Exhibition opening
Exhibition opening
Exhibition opening
Exhibition opening

The night itself was a success: Freddie made some sales, I met lots of lovely people, and I even got a mention in the opening speeches!

Exhibition openings are always a great start to the weekend. There was definitely an air of excitement and vibrancy with Freddie’s event, which was a fun way to end a week of hard grafting. The work will be shown until 10th May, so there’s plenty of time to catch a glimpse if you missed out on Friday night. And don’t forget to come along to the next opening, the Degree Show, which will no doubt be another good night.

Jen Loffman

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