When most culture-hungry travelers and art connoisseurs enter a museum, their primary concern is with the artifacts and the artworks that decorate the spaces. While there’s no denying that the Mona Lisa is supposed to be the center of an admirer’s attention, there’s much more that visitors could get from paying attention to the museum space itself.
For the purposes of describing the importance of curatorial practices, the Guggenheim in New York is an excellent example that explores the importance of a space in the narrative and displays of fine art. Explorations of the museum itself have been done through works like The Cremaster Cycle by Matthew Barney, a visual artist who took the museum as the backdrop for this piece, showing viewers the importance of space.
Curators of museums are the orchestrators of these cultural experiences. Once you enter the exhibition space, you’re in a story that they’ve crafted together using various works of art.
Curators work in all sorts of museums and galleries – from natural history to modern art. All spaces that exhibit curiosities require someone to orchestrate the entire experience. This is especially important given how globalized the experience of art has become. As the world continues to become increasingly connected, so does art, tourism, and the availability of cultural experience. Curators are responsible for truly captivating viewers and helping them understand and bridge the intercultural gaps.
The Guggenheim stresses the importance of its curatorial practices, noting that extensive research ensures the “significance for international, global and transnational perspectives,” that are so integral in this global age.
So, how can we really appreciate the curatorship of an exhibition? To begin, we must first understand what is the specialty to which the institution that organizes it is dedicated. The Guggenheim, for example, is “abstract art and its legacy, the art of the present and international perspectives on avant-garde art”. It is crucial to understand how the museum wants to present its exhibitions.
Understanding the scope and background of the exhibition will also help visitors. For this reason, lovers, experts or art collectors usually always read a synopsis of the exhibition before they get to see it and as they go through it.
Currently, the Guggenheim is hosting an exhibition on Alberto Giacometti, a modern Swiss artist who has left a mark on the Cubist movement of the 20th century. Reading the summary lets visitors know that the exhibition intends to reveal a deeper understanding of the artist’s works, while exploring Giacometti’s interpretations of the human condition. With these key goals in mind, viewers can fully understand what the curators are trying to showcase in the exhibition. It’s not just the works themselves, but what they tell about the artist, and the human condition, as a whole.
Observing the space itself as one moves through a museum and taking note of how the works are displayed can give viewers a more meaningful experience. The totality of the space, combined with how each piece occupies that space says something about how the curator wants the works viewed, and how it continues the theme discussed in the summary.
Finally, look at the work, with all prompts and the whole experience in mind, for the ultimate viewing experience. What can you discover about the piece and the exhibition as a whole? ■