A room in The British Library features shelves filled with colourfully backed books

Art Fund report sets out ten points for increased curatorial diversity

Image: Yinka Shonibare, The British Library, installation view Diaspora Pavilion (2017), Venice. © Yinka Shonibare CBE. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2022

The report, which combines work by Museum X and Culture&, has assessed the impact of ethnic diversity initiatives on the curatorial workforce in the UK arts and heritage sector.

Art Fund has today revealed a report which sets out the priorities for funders, museums, and arts organisations to increase ethnic and cultural diversity in the sector.

The report is a combination of two pieces of work by Black-led organisations Museum X in 2021, and independent arts and education charity Culture& in 2022. Commissioned by Art Fund, the report has assessed the impact of ethnic diversity initiatives on the curatorial workforce in the UK arts and heritage sector.

The report states that, while most ethnic diversity workforce initiatives have been aimed at entry-level roles, few in the UK arts and heritage sector have aimed specifically at diversifying curatorial roles.

The report suggests that comparative initiatives in the US have had “greater investment in and focus on diversifying the curatorial workforce, better quality demographic data and more effective collaboration between funders, museums, galleries and universities”, which has “led to a demonstrable increase in the proportion of non-White people entering the curatorial profession and now [being] appointed to director roles.”

It cites 2021 Arts Council England data, which suggests that of the organisation’s entire national portfolio, museums had the lowest rate of ethnic diversity, with only around 6% of workers identifying as being Black, Asian, or Ethnically Diverse.

The report’s ten recommendations include the creation of more research on career pathways of participants in arts and heritage diversity schemes, a focus on specific initiatives leading to permanent curatorial employment, and greater investment in anti-racism and ethical curatorial practice.

The recommendations also include an increased dialogue, knowledge-sharing and collaboration between funders, cultural organisations, and academic bodies.

Art Fund has published a funders pledge alongside a group of other funders, committing to the report’s recommendations.

A statement from funders on the publication of the report – Art Fund, Freelands Foundation, Jerwood Arts, John Ellerman Foundation, and Paul Hamlyn Foundation – states: “Despite multiple interventions over many decades we are not even close to making our institutions places for curators of colour to thrive.

“Now is the time for leadership – from within the museums sector and by the funders and policy makers who support it – to come together and act collectively to effect positive change in curatorial workforce diversity and make a generational difference.

Sandra Shakespeare of Museum X said the report “marks an opportune moment in time for Art Fund as an independent funder to lead the sector – working with museums and funders alike towards real transformational change to diversify the UK curatorial workforce.

“We hope that the recommendations will support collaborative action to address underlying issues of institutional racism and patriarchy to a workforce that truly represents cultural diversity at its heart. Our communities we work with across organisations, museums and galleries deserve better.’

The full report, ‘“It’s about handing over power”: the impact of ethnic diversity initiatives on curatorial roles in the UK arts and heritage sector 1998-2021’ can be found here.