This post is for you if you’re interested in having a museum exhibition, volunteering or working at a museum, or seeing your art in a museum collection. You need to know how a museum administration is structured. While I haven’t been part of the museum world since 2001, I am fairly confident that what I share below can still be helpful to you.
There has been debate since Clyfford Still’s death in 1980 over the part of his will that left his paintings to any city that would build a museum for them.
What’s it worth to you to view a masterpiece? Should art be for the masses and available to view free of charge? This is a follow-up to last week’s Deep Thought Thursday.
Would you pay an extra $17 to see a single painting by a Renaissance master? Why or why not? Deep Thought Thursday’s are a forum to help get you thinking about art and ideas.
Now is a good time to send an exhibit proposal to your local museum. Take the lead!
Mentioned in this podcast: Draft a Winning Exhibition Proposal
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Recession, recession, recession! That’s all we’re hearing these days. Things are going to be tough for a while, but there’s still a silver lining in every situation if you look at all the angles.
For instance, now would be a terrific time to put together an exhibition proposal for your local museum or art center. Museums are hurting these days. They’re laying off staff and cutting back on budgets. You–the local artists–could be a budget-saver for them. I hate to put it this way, but you’re a cheap program.
Jo-Ann Sanborn, Beach Path. Oil on canvas, 20 x 24 inches. ©The Artist
Museum exhibitions are often planned 2-4 years (or more) in advance. Big-budget exhibits may be scaled back right now or even canceled. Guess what? The gallery spaces still have to be filled with something! If you
A lot of exhibition proposals came across my desk when I worked in art museums. Most were from exhibition touring companies, but some were from individual artists or art organizations.
In the museum, it was important that any exhibition we booked from outside our collection was (1) fundable, (2) educational, and (3) something that would bring people into our galleries.
Curators don’t always have ultimate control over what is exhibited. They must consult with educators (What programs could we line up with this exhibition? Would school groups come to see this?) … development directors (Could we get a grant for this? Is there a major donor that would partially fund this?) … the board of directors … and, of course, the director.
If you’re interested in showing your art in museums, I suggest knowing more about how they work.
From the moment a work of art enters a museum, it is treated as the special one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable object it is. It sits in a crate in the loading area and acclimates to its new surroundings.
Martha Marshall, Harbor Triptych. Acrylic on canvas. © The Artist
After sufficient time has passed, it is uncrated by the preparator or registrar who is wearing white gloves. A condition report is conducted–probably by the registrar. She will use the right lighting, magnification, and perhaps even ultraviolet light to ensure nothing has changed since the original condition report that accompanied the piece on its travels.
Loan and insurance forms are completed. Data is entered into the computer.
Gallery lighting is meticulous and at the appropriate foot-candle level for the medium. Labels are uniform. Floors are cleaned and artworks dusted (by someone with authority
In response to my recent post about the Christoph Büchel/MASS MoCA brouhaha, Joshua Field commented:
As an artist living in North Adams, MA , the town where MASS MoCA is located (I am in no way affiliated with the museum), I think it is important to note a crucial component missing from the dialog and that is the responsibility of the museum and the artist to the community in which they are working. MASS MoCA was built as an economic driver in a struggling mill town that had lost its core industry. The idea was always to try to revitalize the local economy through culture. Buchel has demonstrated a penchant for pranks that question the art business (in 2002 he sold his invite to Manifesta for $15,000 on ebay) and apparently has no regard for the working class people
Thee most important thing you can be doing to prepare your art for museum collections and exhibitions is to treat it like it belongs there.
How do you do this? The checklist in my old e-book, The Artist-Museum Relationship (no longer for sale), begins with Materials and Methods.
Materials & Methods
I use museum quality materials that are made to last.
I am a student of my craft (painting, sculpture, jewelry, etc.). I study the mediums and know how they work together and how they stand up over time. I also know what not to use together.
[If relevant] I know the production process, be it a foundry or printer. I have visited the location, spoken with the staff, and am confident in their knowledge and abilities.
[If relevant] I use the highest quality foundry that I can afford.