What Makes a Great Exhibition?
Rising attendance at museums and ‘megashows’ plus increased press coverage in the age of the international biennial and blockbuster has translated into a growing interest in how exhibitions are made. The new art histories and the curatorial studies programs springing up across North America and Europe often deal with theoretical issues, yet one of the central questions of curatorial practice frequently remains unstated: What makes an exhibition great? In this book, 14 essays by active curators and historians address the issue head-on. Their perspectives on realizing high ideals in the face of budget constraints and various, sometimes conflicting, institutional and public imperatives provide pragmatic examples of thinking by doing and ways to address the public through that central nexus of art and audience: the exhibition. Focused on curating contemporary art, mainly American and European, “What Makes a Great Exhibition?” includes essays by the prolific curator Robert Storr on the plurality encompassed by the words ‘exhibition’ and ‘exhibition-maker’; Studio Museum in Harlem director and chief curator Thelma Golden on issues informing ethnically specific exhibitions; Dia Foundation curator Lynne Cooke on firmly grounding rarified aims; and Iwona Blazwick on a century of trailblazing at London’s Whitechapel Art Gallery, where she is director; and curator Carlos Basualdo reflects on the need to establish a meaningful critical context for international biennials.
Other writers address such issues as the question of the didactic label, the nature of the ‘group’ in group exhibitions, exhibiting design, video and craft, as well as the way architecture can influence the nature of the exhibitions it houses. “What Makes a Great Exhibition?” proposes carefully considered answers to numerous questions of practice even as it raises more questions about exhibition-making today. This volumes aims to stimulate thought about how overarching issues meet on-the-ground practicalities. The book is vital reading for arts professionals, art and curatorial studies students, art historians, practicing artists, and anyone curious about exhibition-making today.
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