Many in the art world were staggered by recent reports that the Italian curator Germano Celant is being paid €750,000 to organise a pavilion for the Milan Expo 2015. Celant’s fee, and the incredulity it provoked, raises questions about how much curators are typically paid for organising biennials and large-scale international exhibitions.
The Art Newspaper surveyed around 40 international curators and biennial organisers; our research shows that biennials usually pay their top curators less than one-sixth of Celant’s total fee.
Celant’s exhibition, which is expected to explore the relationship between food and art, is one of dozens of pavilions at the event, scheduled to open in May. A representative of the Expo defends the fee, saying that Celant has three years to work on the show and that he will use some of the money to pay eight assistants. “His tasks include developing the visitor experience and selecting works from galleries in Italy and abroad,” she says.
Freelance biennial curating is highly visible but relatively new as a paid occupation. Remuneration is shrouded in secrecy: most of the biennials mentioned in this article refused to comment on our findings. But our research suggests that top curators’ salaries typically comprise between 1% and 5% of a biennial’s total budget.