Sociological survey

Survey on curators of contemporary art in France

«After having met the association CEA / Association française des commissaires d’exposition at the end of 2007, a few months after its creation, we realized in 2008 a survey by questionnaire on curators of contemporary art exhibition active in France (that they are French or not, the survey also includes French curators active abroad) with the support of the Department of Artists and Professions of the Delegation for the Visual Arts of the Ministry of Culture and Communication and the CIPAC competition (Federation of professionals of contemporary art).

This survey focused mainly on the conditions of employment and remuneration of curators of contemporary art, but also on their representations of this activity and the artistic world, through a questionnaire distributed online from May 31 to October 31 2008 and comprising 91 questions. A little over 800 people completed all or part of our questionnaire, 299 having answered all the questions and 436 answering all the questions dealing with their professional and personal background. These responses provided a socio-economic portrait of the activity. The treatment of the investigation thus leads to a characterization of the situation of the curators compared to other groups of protagonists in the art world then better known to sociologists such as visual artists, art critics, curators-priseurs, contemporary art gallery owners or museum curators. A public reproduction of this first phase of the investigation was organized with C-E-A and CIPAC at Pavillon Carré de Baudouin in Paris on May 15, 2009.
The survey continued as part of a collective research program on intermediates in the cultural sectors (IMPACT) and supported by the National Research Agency (ANR). This second part took the form of twenty in-depth interviews with current curators of contemporary art and representative of the three business profiles that we have previously identified, as well as with some trainers in the trades of the exposure. These data were supplemented by a study of CEA’s activities since the end of 2007 and by a secondary analysis of life stories or published testimonies of older French or foreign curators, even pioneers of the profession, in order to re-contextualize in time and in an international comparative perspective, the accumulated data on the curatorship in France.

Laurent Jeanpierre (Professor of Political Science, Labtop, University Paris 8)
Isabelle Mayaud (PhD student in history, CRIA, EHESS)
Séverine Sofio (Researcher in sociology, CRESPPA-CSU, CNRS / University Paris 8)
Download the report

Publications (in chronological order)
1) Laurent Jeanpierre, Séverine Sofio, curators of contemporary art in France. Social portrait, survey report given to the Association française des commissaires d’exposition, Paris, September 2009, 29 p. + xxi p. (Schedules).

2) Laurent Jeanpierre, Christophe Kihm, “An investigation on the curators”, art press, 364, February 2010, p. 48.
Thinking About Curators, p. 48-49]

3) Laurent Jeanpierre, “Curators of Contemporary Art. Portrait and Landscape “, art press, 364, February 2010, p. 49-54.
[Article translated in English: “Curating Contemporary Art in France: The Picture Today”, p. 51-54]

4) Laurent Jeanpierre, Séverine Sofio, “Chronicle of a” death “announced. Museum curators face curators in contemporary French art “in Frédéric Poulard, Jean-Michel Tobelem (eds.), The death of conservatives? The role of scientists today, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2013.

5) Laurent Jeanpierre, Isabelle Mayaud, Séverine Sofio, “Representing curators of contemporary art in France: an impossible task? “, The Social Movement, No. 243, June 2013.