Category Archives: Week 8

A “Celebration” in Versailles

Jeff Koons presents a large conundrum to the art world. Here is an artist that has made millions from his work; in November of last year, his Balloon Dog (Orange) sold at Christie’s $58.4 million, a record-breaking sum for a living artist sold at auction. Koons produced a series of Balloon Dogs and the orange version was among the first of these to be fabricated.


In addition to these sculptures, Koons commercial success puts his work in rarified air. In 2011, “91% of Koons’s works on auction were sold, with an average sale price of $1.6 million”; in 2013, ” 78% of Koons’s works offered were sold” (Lane, 2004), all part of trend where the demand for Koons’ work weathered the financial crisis of the last decade quite well. The conundrum of Koons is in his position within the art world, where for many, he remains a divisive figure straddling the paper-thin border between pioneer and self-aggrandizer. Some of his stronger critics have dismissed his work as “crass” and “kitsch” (Galenson, 2006). Kimmelman (1991) criticized an exhibition of Koons in SoHo with “Just when it looked as if the 80’s were finally over, Jeff Koons has provided one last, pathetic gasp of the sort of self-promoting hype and sensationalism that characterized the worst of the decade” Famed critic Peter Schjeldahl went so far as to write, “Jeff Koons makes me sick. He may be the definitive artist of this moment, and that makes me sickest” (Schjeldahl, 1988, p. 81).

But others like Danto (2004) argue for a less vitriolic response, noting “It is widely acknowledged that Jeff Koons is among the most important artists of the last decades of the twentieth century” (p. 27). Were art critics polled for their opinion regarding Koons, “we would encounter a fair amount of resistance to the idea that Koons is anything more than a clever opportunist who has pulled the wool over the rest of the Art World’s eyes” (Danto, 2005, p. 286-287). Danto acknowledges the acrimony towards Koons, but argues this contempt held toward him justifies his preeminence, “That by itself would be evidence of his importance” (p. 287).

Nowhere is Koons’ importance more evident than within the well-known series of Balloon Dogs discussed at the beginning of this post.

Often labeled as Post-Pop, Koons emulates Warhol’s extensive use of the materiality of pop culture, specifically in art that imitates commercial mass production, but takes the notions of materiality, consumerism, and what’s discarded to further degrees. Where Warhol used soup cans and boxed soap, Koons does giant balloon animals.


The most celebrated series is aptly called “Celebration”. These large-scale sculptures and paintings of balloon dogs, Valentine hearts and Easter eggs were conceived in 1994, but some are still being fabricated. Each of the 19 different sculptures in the series comes in five differently coloured “unique versions”. The most coveted have luminous, reflective surfaces. “The ‘Celebration’ series made Koons the number one contemporary artist and pulled up the value of the rest of his work,” says Cheyenne Westphal, chairman of contemporary art at Sotheby’s Europe. (Thornton, 2009)

Remarkably, Koons claims his work has no subtext. “A viewer might at first see irony in my work, but I see none at all. Irony causes too much critical contemplation” (Koons & Rosenblum, 1992, p. 82). He presents his cultural refuse without interpretation, and what could be more disposable than balloon dogs? By their very nature, balloon dogs are disposable art, made by clowns and magicians for the enjoyment of children meant to attract their attention for a few minutes only to eke air slowly to die on a bedroom floor days later, or an shattering explosive death by popping soon after their fabrication. Koons’ dogs are quite the opposite, large, durable, but just as garish. Perhaps that’s the meaning in the materiality, begging the question, what if the materiality of these temporary items achieved permanence? 

Art is not without the notion of place in its materiality. Just as temporal considerations conditions the available material and methods, adding the space where the art is consumed is integral to its meaning. Amongst a number of small protests, a number of pieces from the Celebration series including Balloon Dog were on display in the Palace at Versailles.

Seeing Koons’ work placed in such a monumental site is intriguing. The enormous catalogue of the exhibition is, aside from the ability to transport oneself back to the latter months of 2008, the closest one can come to fully experiencing the impact of Koons’ work at Versailles. The catalogue is full of wonderfully clear images of the sculptures in situ. The images are undoubtedly seductive; the ornate ceiling decoration and elaborate textures of the palace tapestries are mirrored in the reflective surfaces of Koons’ Balloon Dog, placed in the Hercules Salon, and Hanging Heart (Red/Gold) in the alcove of the Staircase of the Queen. (Rychen, 2011, p. 2)

Rychen (2011) for her part, acknowledges the paradox of seeing Post Pop Art in such a setting as she refutes the hand-wringing of Christopher Mooney in his review of the exhibition for Art Review (referring to it as “viral and virile” and “abominable whimsy”) while another review in French weekly Valeurs Actuelles bemoans the loss of a perception for the millions of visitors experiencing Versailles for that “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

What happens to their perception of Versailles if the one time they see it is with a large hanging lobster in the Mars Salon and an enormous pink balloon dog in the Hercules Salon? Does the existence of Koons’ art destroy the authentic experience that the visitors are expecting and possibly deserve? The article claims that the Koons exhibition is the result of an agenda that does not consider Versailles’ main audience. (Rychen, 2011, p. 8)

In this way, we begin to understand the meaning of Koons pretense that he has no hidden message. Is there any place more opulent than Versailles, and is there any better way to assuage the viewer such pretentiousness than with a giant balloon dog with its reflective metal skin?




Danto, A. C. (2004). Kalliphobia in contemporary art. Art Journal, 25-35.

Danto, A. C. (2005). Unnatural wonders: essays from the gap between art and life. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

Galenson, D. (2006). “You Cannot be Serious: the conceptual innovator as trickster”, National Bureau of Economic Research.

Kazakina, K. & Boroff, P. (2013, Nov. 1). Koons’s Puppy Sets $58 Million Record for Living Artist.Bloomberg.

Kimmelman, M. (1991, Nov. 29). “Jeff Koons”, The New York Times. Retrieved from

Koons, J., & Rosenblum, R. (1992). The Jeff Koons Handbook. Thames and Hudson.

Lane, M. (2014, Feb 14). Christie’s, Sotheby’s Post Robust Sales. MarketWatch: The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

Mooney, C. (2008). “Jeff Koons,” Art Review, no. 28.

Rychen, J. (2011). Abundance and Banality: Jeff Koons at the Palace of Versailles. Shift, Graduate Journal of Material and Visual Culture4, 1-11.

Schjeldahl, P. (1990). The “7 Days” Art Columns, 1988-1990. Great Barrington, MA: The Figures.

Thornton, S. (2009, Nov. 26). “Inflatable investments – The volatile art of Jeff Koons”, The Economist. Retrieved from:

Vogel, C. (2013, Nov. 12). At $142.4 Million, Triptych Is the Most Expensive Artwork Ever Sold at an Auction. New York Times.


Warhol: Traumatic Realism

What happens when one challenges “the great idiot savant of our time” to turn away from such upbeat/accessible themes and emotions as fame, beauty, and work and instead grapple with the harsh and affecting truth of death?  Well, you get this enlightening quote.

In an attempt to tackle Warhol from a new perspective, Hal Foster utilizes Warhol’s “Death in America” as a window into the artist’s range and as a vehicle for expanding the debate from the simplistic referential vs. simulacral readings of his work. Taking issue with Barthes, Foucault, and Baudrillard attempts to emphasize the superficiality of Pop, the loss of symbolic meaning, and the end of its subversion, Foster is more interested in the object’s “total integration” into the political economy. Similarly, instead of supporting Warholian Pop’s relationship to such themes as fashion, gay subculture, etc., Foster embraces Crowe’s punctuation of “the reality of suffering and death” as critical to a thorough understanding of the artist’s work.

But central to Foster’s argument is the degree to which Warhol’s “Death in America” series allows for a reading of Warhol through the lens of traumatic realism. Seeking to explore the impact of shocked subjectivity – compounded by repetition – Warhol hoped to examine  why repeated exposure to a gruesome event could eventually render the viewer unaffected by its severity. But instead of providing a path for mastering trauma, Foster argues that the Death in America series exemplifies Warhol’s obsessive interest in melancholy-as-object. Warhol’s Sixteen Jackies (1964) or even his Marilyns series speak to a sense of wish fulfillment that conjures up memories of death (and the public’s communal grieving experience).


In effect, Warhol’s reproductions/repetitions are not limited to solely re-producing traumatic effect but rather are entirely capable of producing it. Foster argues:

Wherein Barthes depicts punctum as “what I add to a photograph and what is nonetheless already there”, Foster makes the case that “the punctum in Warhol lies less in details than in his repetitive popping of the image.” From the indifferent passerby to the impaled victim hanging from the telephone pole, the viewer is rendered simultaneously appalled and accommodated. These conflicting reactions speak to the ways in which Warhol re-examined the relationship between depictions of death in widespread circulation and how such a relationship plays an intriguing role in the associations we bring to other non-gruesome images that are closely linked to deathly acts (see Most Wanted Men image).


Works Cited:

Hal Foster, “Death in America,” October 75 (1996).

Warhol’s Mastermind Tactics in Mass Production: Endangered Species Portfolio

Andy Warhol has been credited as one of the most valued artists in history, changing the vibes of artwork to focus on what we now call pop-art. A group of related works that Warhol incorporated into this pop-art era are his Endangered Species pieces. Within Andy Warhol’s paintings of the portfolio, Endangered Species, there are many underlying meanings and a concrete process of creation. Ten colored silkscreen prints were made by Warhol in dedication to of a select group of endangered species at the time. These included the bald eagle, black rhino, African elephant, bighorn ram, giant panda, Grevy’s zebra, orangutan, Pine Barrens tree frog, Siberian tiger, and San Francisco silverspot. They were composed on Lenox Museum Board, and are 38 x 38 inches. In the lower center of each painting, they are signed and numbered by Andy Warhol. These paintings are looked as as an entire portfolio and individually in comparison to Warhol’s creations of the Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor, and Muhammad Ali prints (the other screen prints he created that were instantly famous). I find the readings have thoroughly depicted the exploration of character and his creation of material reality, as well as supreme advertising and mass production something prevalent throughout this portfolio’s making.

005616a5412 1378736582-black_rhinoceros__endangered_species_portfolio__1983__silkscreen_print_on_lenox_museum_board__andy_warhol__columbus_museum_purchase_1983.33. Andy_Warhol_Andy_Warhol_Orangutan_Screenprint_from_the_Endangered_Species_Portfolio_492 Andy_Warhol_Bighorn_Ram_from_the_Endangered_Species_Portfolio_FS_II_302_492 andy_warhol_giant_panda_from_endangered_species_d5658447h andy_warhol_siberian_tiger_from_endangered_species_d5308804h andy-warhol-bald-eagle-from-endangered-species-portfolio-prints-and-multiples-serigraph-screenprint andy-warhol-grevys-zebra-from-endangered-species-portfolio-fs-ii-300-1983-1344424704_b andy-warhol-tree-frog-1983-FS-II.294 FS-II.298

The entire portfolio was created in 1983, which was later in the artist’s career after he mastered the idea of capitalism and production. The works have been re-located several times to picture galleries around the world (Carnegie Melon in Pittsburgh, PA, Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, etc.). “1983 April The American Museum of Natural History in new York exhibits Warhol’s editioned print portfolio Endangered Species. Warhol gifts many of the prints to charities concerned with the preservation of the natural environment” (Lowery). Since the paintings were reproduced, there is a large argument of what is considered an “authentic” Andy Warhol painting (especially since these works were done in the 1980’s). Warhol is known for working advertising and art on a large scale, learning that if his works were reproduced (even if not solely created by him) they would still be sold. The Georgetown Frame Shoppe is selling one print of each animal that is thought to be authentic. The only one that has been purchased thus far is the zebra. All others are still available, if interested. However, there is a large debate all over the world to which paintings were manufactured by workers (and potentially only signed by Warhol), or whether he actually did the work himself.

(See Georgetown Frame Shoppe Website here: Georgetown Frame Shoppe: Endangered Species)

The interpretive contexts are complex but make sense due to the time period. The paintings were made because art dealers Ronald and Frayda Feldman commissioned the portfolio after talking to Warhol about the present environmental and ecological issues in the world. Beach erosion was the main topic of conversation. Warhol was known to have a natural curiosity with animals, so he was delighted to take on the project suggested by the Feldman’s. The resulting screenprints were lively interpretations of each of the ten endangered animals. They are extremely colorful and don’t look as though they were painted, but almost printed, forming a material reality. Warhol described as “animals in make up.” Many describe his focus on each animal on its own, “puts them on a level of superstardom along with the infamous screen prints of his past” (ANDY WARHOL, Christie’s). Many remix principles are used within this portfolio because of the way the prints are made, as well as the way they look. Warhol was also using remix in terms of repetition and appropriation when mass producing them. He uses the appropriation (just like in Monroe, Taylor, and Ali’s photos) to re-create an object that is of popular culture or that has an appeal within individuals at that time (i.e. many people care about endangered species throughout the world). He knows that these items are of a completely different genre, with their grainy, slightly “out-of-register” images. Warhol himself said he wanted something that gave more of an assembly line effect. “They looked like mechanically reproduced photos in cheap tabloid newspapers” (Dorment); a combination of real people and animals with a fake, colorful vibe (or as previously mentioned, looking like they are hidden behind “make-up”). Of the ten animals in Warhol’s work, eight remain on the endangered species list. The bald eagle was taken off the endangered species list in 2007 because of a recovery within the species, and the Pine Barrens tree frog was removed in 1983 shortly after Warhol’s creation due to erroneous data on the animal. The reception of the works was generally well-received, especially since the style was similar to previous works. Furthermore, the causation and inspiration of his works were appreciated by all who wish to preserve animals throughout the planet with dwindling populations. It also created an heir of interconnectedness, since the ten species he chose were from many areas across the globe. The exploration of character, Warhol’s creation of material reality, as well as his supreme advertising and mass production are three ideas that make his work unique, and prove that Warhol was a mastermind for capitalist endeavors in for art the marketplace.

Real Footage of the Portfolio (including opinion of artwork and connection to previous works):

Works Cited

“ANDY WARHOL | Endangered Species (F. & S. II.293-302) | Prints Auction | 1980s, Prints & Multiples | Christie’s.” Christie’s, 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2014. <>.

“Andy Warhol’s Endangered Species Three Decades on – Image 1 – New Scientist.”Gallery – Andy Warhol’s Endangered Species Three Decades on – Image 1 – New Scientist. New Scientist, June 2012. Web. 03 Mar. 2014. <>.

“Andy Warhol Grevy’s Zebra.” Joseph K. Levene Fine Art Ltd. N.p., 2003. Web. 03 Mar. 2014. <>.

Dorment, Richard. “What Is an Andy Warhol?” The New York Review of Books. N.p., 23 Sept. 2009. Web. 02 Mar. 2014. <>.

Jones, Jonathan. “Spilling the Soup on Andy Warhol’s Legacy.” Guardian News and Media, 24 July 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2014 < lawsuits>.

Kish, Leigh. “Warhol’s Endangered Species Series: Collection of Andy Warhol Prints on View at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.” Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Carnegie Museum of Natural History, 21 Nov. 2011. Web. 03 Mar. 2014. <>.

Jeff Koons – Lady Gaga Sculpture

Emily Rothkopf

For decades, Jeff Koons has employed ordinary objects in extraordinary combinations to provide an ongoing commentary on “materiality and artificiality, eroticism and naivety, popular culture and rarefied elitism” (Zafar 2013).  His latest rendition of these themes takes form in a collaborative project with musician and pop culture icon, Lady Gaga.  Koons first created the album cover artwork for Gaga’s 2013 release Artpop.  His second, more ostentatious act was creating a 3D, larger-than-life sculpture, replicating the covers image of Gaga.

Jeff Koons’ Lady Gaga sculpture (2013), source:

The sculpture consists of two components – a stark white plaster cast of Gaga and one of Koons’ signature metallic blue Gazing Balls, which is constructed of glass and painted on the inside (McKeever 2013).  Gaga is nude with a minimalist, make-up free face, adorned solely with a long wig.  In contrast to her done-up, photographed appearance, many of Gaga’s fans would describe the Koons image of the singer as lifeless and pale.  In his Gazing Balls collection and again with the Gaga sculpture, Koons juxtaposes the traditional Greco-Roman inspired sculptures with the perfectly spherical, pop-art inspired balls (Petersen 2013).  The balls are reminiscent of popular garden ornaments that Koons remembers from his childhood in suburbia (Swanson 2013).  While the album cover art appropriates several classical works — Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Gian Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, the sculpture draws from his own collection (Gazing Balls) and perhaps from his piece Women in Tub.

Gaga is the second musician that Koons has portrayed in his works – the first being Michael Jackson in 1988.  Koons, like most Pop Artists, aims to communicate with as wide an audience as possible, which is why he would incorporate international, mega-celebrities like Jackson and Gaga into his work.  This is similar to Andy Warhol’s use of iconic, hyper-mediated women like Marilyn Monroe.  However, Koons was already one of the most successful living artists at the time of his collaboration with Gaga.  In this instance, it was more of a mutual appeal and partnership that helps blend the music and art worlds, and perhaps bridge a gap between the art world and younger generations (Brito 2013).  While the album cover was seen by millions, the Gaga sculpture and Gazing Balls collection were more limited in reach.  Koons’ Gazing Balls collection was housed at several art galleries in New York City during 2013 and the Gaga sculpture was unveiled as part of an album release party in late 2013.

Koons’ work is part of the Pop Art movement which was a more conceptual counter to the realist painting and photography genres that proceeded it, and also a more object and image driven art countering the abstract movement.  In his Gaga collaboration, Koons depicts some of the traditional Pop Art themes, like a culture of excess and obsession with image.  But Koons moves beyond these themes evoking concepts like reflection, transformation and transcendence.  Apollo (depicted on the album cover) is the god of music and known to transcend or change upon performing music.  This is a transcendence that one can experience through art, as Koons tries to facilitate with his Gazing Balls.  Like looking into a spherical, reflective ball, your physical being is affirmed, yet transformable.  Additionally, the reflective balls that people place in their gardens are symbols of “generosity to your neighbors” … people not only want transcendence for themselves, but they also want to engage in dialogue with others about transcendence (Ehrlich 2013).  Gaga’s Gazing Ball represents the birth of her new music and her own transformation.  But moreover, like her muse Venus, she is presenting herself as a “work of living, breathing art, as an inspirational guide” (Zafar 2013).

Lady Gaga’s Artpop album cover (2013), source:

Jeff Koons’ Gazing Ball – Ariadne (2013), source:

Jeff Koons’ Woman in Tub (1988), source:

Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (1485), source:


Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Apollo & Daphne (1625); source:

Works Cited

Brito, Maria Gabriela. “Lady Gaga and Jeff Koons’ ArtRave.” The Huffington Post., 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.

McKeever, Robert. “Jeff Koons, “Gazing Ball”” Time Out New York. Time Out, 29 June 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.

Ehrlich, Brenna. “Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP Cover: Artist Jeff Koons Explains What It All Means.” MTV., 8 Nov. 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.

Petersen, Victoria. “‘Jeff Koons: Gazing Ball’ at David Zwirner.” Out of Order Magazine. Out of Order Magazine, 1 June 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.

Swanson, Carl. “Jeff Koons Is the Most Successful American Artist Since Warhol. So What’s the Art World Got Against Him?” Vulture. New York Media LLC, 5 May 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.

Zafar, Aylin. “Lady Gaga’s Jeff Koons-Created New Album Cover is a Literal Work of Art.” BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed, 8 Oct. 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.

The AWs and Conceptual Art

This week’s readings on hybrid art forms in a  post-Warhol world were useful in tracing the history of art and what we have historically considered to be art. Focusing on Arthur Danto’s analysis and critique of Warhol’s work and impact on the way in which we conceptualize art was particularly thought-provoking. In “Modern, Postmodern, and Contemporary,” Danto explains that Warhol was so important to contemporary art, or “post historical” art, which is characterized by a “lack of stylistic unity,” because he showed the art world that anything could be considered art. There was a huge shift in our cultural collective understanding of art when art could be conceptual rather than being focused on technical artistic skills. Andy Warhol’s Brillo Box, according to Danto, is a perfect example of such conceptual art: “nothing need mark the difference, outwardly, between Andy Warhol’s Brillo Box and Brillo boxes in the super market.” This change is so important because thought and philosophy enter the conversation when art becomes conceptual.

Brillo Box is indeed a fascinating and clear example of conceptual hybrid art work. Warhol integrated everyday objects and consumer products into his art. It makes us consider the socially constructed systems of meaning and value around a work of art in comparison to a commercial, everyday product. Ben Davis, in “What Arthur Danto Meant to Me,” explains Danto’s interpretation of this work: we can’t be certain about the difference between artworks and actual boxes “without the intervention of thought,” which draws upon the aforementioned systems of meaning.

Another significant characteristic of Warhol’s work, which has carried over into the works of contemporary conceptual artists internationally is the idea of authenticity and the artist’s physical touch that Richard Dorment describes in his essay “What is an Andy Warhol?”: a Warhol painting or work can be considered original even if Warhol did not physically make it. What matters, pointing back to the Brillo Box example that Danto explored, is the idea behind the work of art, and the thoughts and dialogic conversations with audiences and culture that it provokes.  Did Warhol put together the Brillo Box sculpture with his own hands? What is the difference between the sculpture and the mass produced boxes? How can authenticity be verified, and should it still be valued and measured in the same way in the art world as it had been before the age of mass production?

Some of Ai Weiwei’s sculptures are very similar to the conceptual works of Andy Warhol, like Brillo Box, in provoking viewers to question the systems of meaning built up around material objects. Ai Weiwei’s Colored Vases plays with the appropriation of cultural meanings, just as Warhol did. Ancient vases from the Han dynasty, cherished for their historical value, were appropriated by Ai Weiwei when he took them (or, someone in his studio took them–he, like Warhol, comes up with the concepts but often lets others execute his ideas) and dipped them in different bold colors of paint. Just as Warhol reappropriated the Brillo boxes (albeit not by physically taking the objects but by building replicas of them) so too does Ai Weiwei reappropriate objects with a different cultural value than that of a work of art. The cultural meaning attached to the ancient pottery, most probably first a functional object, later turned into object of historical value due to its age, and then turned into a work of art by virtue of Ai Weiwei dipping them in paint, arranging them together in an installation. Like Brillo Box, Colored Vases makes us question what we are seeing. When exactly does the transformation from an object of history to a work of contemporary art happen? The provocation of these questions makes these works of art conceptual, and ensures that there is a dialogue between the artist and the audiences receiving the works.


Works Cited

 Arthur Danto, “Modern, Postmodern, and Contemporary,” From After the End of Art (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1997): Chap. 1, pp. 3-19 (New York Times excerpt)

Ben Davis, “What Arthur Danto Meant to Me.” ARTINFO, Oct. 30, 2013.

Richard Dormant, “What is an Andy Warhol.” Review essay, The New York Review of Books. Oct. 2009.

Will Hunter, “Ai Weiwei’s Colored Vases,” The Architectural Review, N.p., 26 May 2011, Web, 1 Mar. 2014, <>.

Lovern, Lindsey, and Jonathan Yee, “Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes: A Series Index,”Artnet. Artnet, 15 Mar. 2013, Web. 01 Mar. 2014, <>.


Revised Assignment for Week 8: Warhol to the Post-Pop Diaspora

Murakami installation at Versailles

Murakami installation at the Palace of Versailles (2010)

Assignment: Short Curatorial-Style Project

We’ve mentioned the question of artworks, museums, and histories of presentation and technical mediation for access to art and artefacts. This assignment will help you think through the steps needed to understand, interpret, and communicate interpreted meaning when studying the specific genres and types of works that we are investigating.

Each student will be responsible for a short curatorial presentation of an assigned work by one of the artists in this week’s unit.

Learning Objective:

Learning how to develop interpretive frameworks for “remix” hybrid combinatorial works by following the “curatorial method” for a researched presentation of a work or related group of works. The point is learning the questions to ask and how to follow up with appropriate research (not having pre-formed answers). This short project will help you learn the method of using a work or artefact as an interface to the system of meanings and expressions (vocabularies, genres, material media forms, and encyclopedic symbolic values) from which it was generated and received, and enable you to be a better researcher, interpreter, and analyst.

How to Think Like a Curator

Curating doesn’t mean “selecting.” The role and function of the curator has evolved in museum and historical professions as “taking care of, being charged with responsibility for” (from Latin, cura, care, safekeeping) any artefact (objects, books, artworks) valued by a society. Although making interpretive selections for museum exhibitions is part of the public-facing role of curating, the main professional-cultural function is a combination of archival, research, interpretive, and communicational activities–being responsible for an artwork or artefact in all aspects, especially as trustee of an artefact’s significance by keeping it accessible and renewing its contexts of meaning. (Thus curators are concerned with preservation, research on the historical context and materials of the artefact, establishing knowledge about the artefact in the artist’s career history and in the social history of its reception, developing interpretive contexts for communicating the meanings of the artefact for the public and other scholars). So the curator’s method is to understand all aspects of a work and keep its meanings and value alive and growing through many researched contexts–from a work’s own time through its reception to our own time–as the foundation for communicating its meaning and value to a public (which includes artists, scholars, students). Curators necessarily think dialogically, and are always aware of their own points of observation in time and place.

Steps in the assignment:

Using the methods we’ve studied, do a short curatorial presentation (3 paragraphs) of your assigned work covering:

1. Materials and physical description (mediums, dimensions), genres and hybrid genres it may be aligned with or implementing.

2. The history of the work (when made, and position in artist’s career), and where the work is currently located (this is part of the value chain of work).

3. Interpretive contexts:
Investigate/research the dialogic context/situation in which it was produced (what were/are the larger conversations that the artist and the community were participating in). How are “remix” principles being used (combinatorial principles at the levels of the vocabulary of visible forms or concepts at the encyclopedic level)?

What can you find out about its reception, and how it has accrued the meanings that it has for us now (a shorter description of the work is very closely contemporary with us).