Denise Courcoux

Gallery Co-ordinator currently at the Tate in Liverpool

Background provided by Ms Courcoux on 19th November 2021:

2002 – 2005, she studied for a BA in Fine Art and English Lit at Chester University

2nd year she undertook the job Experimental Learning Placement at National Museums Liverpool assisting with the Walker Art Gallery (John Moores Painting Prize) an established event that expects around 2,500 entries.

Worked in an administrative role and organisation as well as physically setting up the space which grew her interest in working with galleries. Volunteered again for this event in 2006 which allowed her to learn more about the technical aspect, like handling paintings. She felt doing placement let her create and keep contacts in the sector she wanted to work.

She had a hold over job in a call centre – this helped with customer interaction and services, taught communication skills. Utilising the Chester network, on days off she would inviolate and volunteer in areas she was interested in. Blue Coat hired her (Had previously volunteered) Iterated the important of communication skills. Became a co-ordinator sorting exhibitions and project management for a contemporary art space. Allowed her to gain experience with a range of exhibitions and artworks in different mediums. Lot of admin work, shipping and handling of artworks as well as managing handling updating the space with contractors, working with the artists in house. This allowed her to really create networks for a range of jobs. The area of industry is far more broad than just curating.

Returned to do an MA in Art Gallery & Museum Studies in 2012-14 she focused on art curation but made sure to communicate with others in different fields, Egyptian museum curation. Found professional practice a useful module.

She worked with Nantwich museum who is a small independent museum, responsible for lots of the collections, exhibits, events, fundraising and getting volunteers which the majority of the staff. Port Sunlight in the wirral, Slightly larger than Nantwich but she had a very similar role. This gave her insight into the breadth in museums and has helped with her primary area of interest. Moved on to work with Wired Aerial Theatre as the company administrator, she managed accounts, finance, booking, marketing and social media. Learnt a lot of transferable skills in this job even if it wasn’t art curation.

Science & Industry Museum (Part of the science museum group) Government funded, learning the administration for a national scale museum. She worked as Exhibition Production Co-ordination, managing large scale exhibit pieces into temporary exhibition spaces. The other half of her role was undertaking improvements to the permanent display areas in the museum, working with contractors, had to do a lot of health and safety paperwork. Given lead on smaller projects in the museum

Tate Liverpool – Assistant Exhibitions Registrar, she feels that Tate Liverpool really consolidates the experience she has had in the other jobs. She is a major art co-ordinator working on loans of artwork and contacting London Tate for art swaps. Logistics are a big part of her job. Conservation is something she has to follow and coordinate with the conservation team. Environmental Management for the art pieces.

Tates Response to the pandemic:

She had to work on the artwork care during the closed periods and environmental management from a distance. Managing exhibit changes and loans of artwork. Digital technology has increased, and she had quite a positive outlook on it as it allowed her to contact her peers at the other Tate locations. Allowed for virtual couriering, which required creative problem solving, using GPS tracking and video calls for setting up the piece, this allowed to save money as well as environmentally friendly.

On the side of her job, she has also been writing for the last 7 years. She does reviews, interviews & reports for online and print art publications. Worked with The Double Negative Fellowship

She began creative writing as well as issue-based writing.

Vol vs Paid – in writing and in galleries. Good experience, but make sure it’s in the right place and not be exploited.

Writing Job apps take time, do your research, understand the job and address this in person spec.

Spell out what you bring to a role

Denise COurcoux

The sector is underpaid as well as busy, but worth it if you love it.

Everything is of value (you will learn transferable skills even if they don’t match the job at the time.) Do what interests you outside your day job.

Networking is important. It doesn’t need to be scary, so talk to people and share interests.

Don’t worry, everyone else is also figuring it out!

Denise Courcoux

@Denisecourcoux < Twitter

She feels that there is a movement change in what a role is looking for, whether you need a master as it isn’t allowing for diversity. She talks about entry-level jobs and that she found her post-grad worth it but doesn’t think it has to be done.

Don’t be put off by job specs. Keep in touch and keep networking. Being reliable comes a long way. Not always a linear path for your career. Confidence in own abilities as well as in others.

More comfortable in larger institutions (there is a culture shift). Can’t just do things in the bigger jobs, and there can be a lot of job politics.

Found jobs in non-standard ways. She went through a document with all the websites of museums, galleries and local authorities as she found jobs got put up on individual websites rather than on big sector ones like Indeed or LinkedIn.

What I have taken away:

For me, this was an interesting lecture about a career path I would possibly be interested in. Whilst not in my plans at the moment, the idea of the technical aspect of curation fascinates me. Transferable skills have been a running theme throughout all the lectures that she touches upon, I can see skills I currently have being transferable. Her lecture also made me consider some of the approaches to my creative practice outside of my job, creating artwork and the safe management of those pieces of work.