An exhibition is a vehicle for the production and dissemination of knowledge. It is a site of exchange between objects, works of art, the museum, and the public. It is also the result of collaboration between numerous individuals, including curators, designers, educators, museum directors, preparators, and sometimes artists and/or representatives of their estates.
Just like a well written essay, every exhibition has a thesis and a target audience. Usually stated in the wall text and in other promotional materials, such as the museum’s website, brochures, and exhibition catalog, the main idea is developed visually through the exhibition’s design. Analyzing an exhibition involves considering the display and organization of the artworks and objects, and the way they influence how visitors perceive and experience the art and understand the curator’s message.
How do you look at an exhibition?
What is the exhibition’s title?
What does the title tell you about the exhibition?
What is the subject?
Why was the exhibition created?
What is its thesis or argument?
Who is the target audience?
How is the exhibition organized?
Is there a clear path visitors are encouraged to take through the exhibition?
Look to see how your answers to the questions above are communicated through the exhibition’s design. Pay attention to how you move through the exhibition and how this affects your experience.
Read the exhibition catalogue, if there is one, for additional information.
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