Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art Business

First Advisor

Agnes Berecz

Second Advisor

Matthew Nichols


Starting point of this paper is the philosophical field of hermeneutics.
Hermeneutics was established to account for different conditions of understanding
and how they shape our interpretative processes. As different times constitute
different conditions, the goal of the discipline essentially is to bridge the temporal
gap between the creation of a work and its perception at a given point in time.
Whereas traditionally, understanding was a matter of analyzing the historical
tradition of author/artist and reader/viewer, nowadays, the perception and
interpretation of art is shaped by another instance, the curator. Under the premise
that selection and arrangement, i.e. curating, cannot be neutral, the author
analyzes different contexts in which curating takes place and how different
contexts account for different effects on our perception of art. After outlining the
development of the curatorial practice—from institutional to independent curation
—, a case study of Swiss curator Harald Szeemann serves as opportunity to
examine specific phenomena and exhibitions in a detailed manner. A cultural and
methodological cesura is proposed after which curators were able to execute the
power and influence they have today: independent curation and the ahistorical
exhibition. Ahistorical exhibitions disregard chronological display and enable
curators to create individual narratives and themes by gathering artworks in a
cross-temporal and geographical manner. Throughout the paper, it is assessed if
and to what degree the application of hermeneutics onto the field of independent
curation is fruitful. This theoretical analysis is followed by a market overview, in
which various functions the curator fulfills in different institutions, e.g. museums,
galleries, auction houses, are outlined and compared. Optimally, the consideration
of cultural and commercial factors enables viewers to approach and see (curated)
art in a differentiated way.