Note: This article is based in part on the book Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas and Predict the Future.*
Nearly three years ago, the world learned the story of a retired postal worker who had quietly amassed one of the greatest collections of modern art in the world.
Herbert Vogel and his wife, Dorothy, were already legends in the world of art when Herbert passed away in 2012 at the age of 89. News stories the day after his death told the story of five large moving vans showing up at the Vogel's rent-controlled, one-bedroom New York apartment to pick up more than 5,000 pieces of art. The Vogel Collection, built over decades, would have a permanent home as part of the archives and collection at the National Gallery of Art.
The Vogels had always said the only thing they did was to buy and collect art they loved.
That passion often led them to find new young artists to support before the rest of the world discovered them. The Vogels ultimately became more than collectors. They were tastemakers. And their "fabled collection," as one critic later described it, which included art from hundreds of artists, including pop artist Roy Lichtenstein and post-minimalist Richard Tuttle, was the envy of museums around the world.
The same qualities that drive art patrons like the Vogels to follow their instincts and collect beautiful things are the ones that make great curators.
Museum curators organize collections into themes that tell stories. Individual curators create stories by collecting ideas or items they have a passion for. Either way, the goal of curation is always taking individual items and examples and weaving them together into a narrative.
In other words, curation adds meaning to isolated beautiful things.