On The Curatorial Challenges in Exhibitions
There are few places that are able to generate a medley of emotions all in one visit. Museums are perhaps one of the few institutions that are able to tout such an ability. A Jackson Pollock exhibit will grip our attention with its abstract expressionism while a Renoir will captivate because its unparalleled beauty. In many ways, the human soul belongs to the museum.
THE MUSEUM EFFECT
When we look at art, we must question what we see. Is the piece before us compelling for its aesthetic beauty, its clandestine messages, and intricate detail? Has an artwork been transformed into an object of visual interest by a museum? It is often that artworks become isolated from their original purpose—modified in a way that is familiar and less thought provoking. The museum effect maintains the ability to alter cultural objects into artworks. In other words, exhibitions are created to foster a tangible experience for the American visitor. The issue that continues to be unresolved is how to construct an exhibition in a way that remains authentic to its original people or time, while refraining from being pedagogical.
A museum is charged with the challenge of displaying an exhibition that is both interesting to look and culturally viable. The success of that exhibition is dependent upon a viewer’s ability to obtain answers to the questions they formulate when observing the object. To do so requires an exhibitor’s willingness to forgo representing a culture, and instead to establish stimulating conditions between the exhibitor’s activity and the maker’s object. An exhibition whose dialogue involves culturally unfamiliar works must take into account three primary figures: object, exhibitor, and viewer. It is the dynamic between all three that produces a successful experience.
The complexities that exist when obtaining and displaying foreign artworks underly a viewer’s interaction with an exhibition. Curatorial challenges and objective choices are at the forefront of every display. The arrangement must walk a fine line between representing a culture and an enlightening perspective. An exhibition’s assemblage is rife with perspective, but it is in construction of this perspective that enables viewers to expand their thought processes, thus creating a multivocal conversation. Rather than transforming an artwork into a figure for display, museums are faced with the task of presenting objects and guiding the viewer through a cultural exchange.