Curating the Club: Curatorial Approaches to Club Culture

November 2019


Club culture is a booming topic for exhibitions. In the past decade, it has been approached from fashion, design and community-based angles, in venues ranging from London’s Fabric nightclub to the Victoria & Albert Museum. And yet, there are numerous factors that make club culture both difficult and problematic to represent, in academic discourse and museum exhibitions alike. Multi-faceted and multi-layered, participatory, ana-disciplinary, ephemeral, anti-institutional, and driven by its communities, club culture presents ethical as well as affective challenges to curators approaching the topic.

This paper outlines some of the curatorial challenges and sensitivities presented by club culture as an exhibition topic, informed by existing literature. It then gives a close analysis of three recent exhibitions of club culture: Club to Catwalk at the Victoria & Albert Museum (2013–14); Night Fever at ADAM, Brussels (2018–2019) and Sweet Harmony: Rave | Today, at Saatchi Gallery (2019). By applying research on the specific issues related to representations of club cultures to contemporary exhibitions, this paper aims to build a curatorial discourse on club culture, and contribute towards the development of an ethical framework for curators approaching the topic.

Keywords: club cultures, club history, subcultures, youth culture, curatorial, exhibitions, ethnography, communities, queer culture, ethics

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