Art History 430

ARTH 430 - Whimsy, Outrage and Seduction: Exhibiting Art in the 21st Century

Prerequisites: ART 215 or ART 216 or permission of instructor

Credits: (3)

Beginning with the premise that the role of museums and exhibitions has changed significantly in the late 20th century, this course will identify exhibitions that both support and challenge the idea that museums have returned to their roots as cabinets of curiosity. In the process of doing so, exhibition protocols, exhibitions that have made history, curatorial roles, and the variables that influence curatorial decisions will be examined.


Detailed Description of Course

This course is planned as the second course in a sequence devoted to the history of museums (ARTH401) and the history of exhibitions (430).  ARTH430 is guided by the hypothesis that installation art has become the new paradigm for museum exhibitions. Following from this assumption, class topics will build on the knowledge of the evolution of museums to analyze the influences on exhibition design, theories of curating, and landmark exhibitions in the 20th and 21st centuries. The major course project will be the development of a detailed exhibition proposal and analysis of the conditions and constraints that would either impede or facilitate its realization. Attempts will be made to invite established museum curators to discuss exhibition -related issues with the class.

Sample topics include the following:

  • Challenging and reframing the museum and the gallery: the “anti” exhibition
  • The commodification of art; the museum as department store
  • Selling “things”: display windows as art
  • The Museum as an Installation
  • Landmark exhibitions of the 20th century (or, to borrow the title of a book: Exhibitions that made art history)
  • Exhibitions that “unmade” art history: the place of shows which attempted to reframe art in negative ways (the Degenerate art show inevitably comes to mind)
  • Curatorial premises and theories: analysis and simulation


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The class will be conducted as a seminar. Students will be expected to complete readings, to respond to topic questions, and provide feedback on one another’s major projects. The major course project will be the development of a detailed exhibition proposal and analysis of the real-life conditions and constraints operating against or for its realization. The proposal will be presented in written and oral form, and will include mock contracts, letters of inquiry to the holders of art works for the exhibitions, and determination of primary sponsors. Other themes which might be explored in course projects include historical study of the evolution of how one theme has been treated in museum exhibitions (for example, women’s art, the art of native Americans, a particular artist, etc.) or an indepth case analysis of exhibition which made or unmade history.


Student Goals and Objectives of the Course

Although all the art history learning objectives will be reinforced in this class, students in this class will demonstrate advanced mastery of the ability to:

  • Analyze the impact of gender, culture and social developments in art history
  • Explain changing patterns of patronage, markets, and exhibition structures in the art world
  • Compare and apply different art historical methodologies to the analysis of artworks, styles, and museum and gallery exhibitions
  • Propose exhibition programs which take into account social, market, and other criteria, and which respond to a set of conditions reflecting time and location of the exhibition


Assessment Measures

Assessment will be based on course participation and the level of achievement in the exhibition proposal. Each step in the research process will be critiqued and contribute to the final grade.


Other Course Information

Examples: Bibliography of readings relevant to the course, special teaching aids, and any other information not contained in one of the above sections.


Review and Approval


Revised 05/12/2011