Thankfully, I saw a number of very well curated shows in NY. Jerry Saltz has some great thoughts on this subject that seem to be in sinc with mine. Sadly it seems to be the rare curator these days that is adding rather than subtracting from the work they are showing.
"It’s also rare these days, partly because curating is becoming less of a dark art and more of a science or profession. Curators are curating shows to death. They’ve either been trained about what type of thing should go with what type of thing and they do that robotically or without insight; they make the same points that their teachers made two generations ago; they have a bad eye and whatever they do doesn’t matter; or they try to make everything make sense when one of the first rules of curating should be "Stop Making Sense."
My general rules would be (and it ain't easy)
#1. Find and show great or interesting work. Having an eye is #1
#2 Find and show a certain amount of new or under recognized work. You must look at a lot of work. It's a job--take it seriously. Jerry is the ultimate role model here, unlike what seems to be the typical writer, curator or critic--he sees shows.
#3 Leave enough room for the viewer to make new connections between the works. A show has to trancend being a thesis/history lesson.
For the record, I don't curate well and see my primary purpose as leaving a lot of room to make their own decisions.
Here's Jerry with a great paragraph on what happens when a show is well curated.
"The alchemy of good curating amounts to this: sometimes placing one work of art near another makes one and one equal three. Two artworks arranged alchemically leave each intact, transform both and create a third thing. This third thing and the two original things then trigger cascades of thought and reaction; you know things you didn’t know you needed to know until you know them; then you can’t imagine ever not knowing them again. Then these things transform all the other things and thoughts you’ve had. This chain-reaction is thrilling and uncanny."