During Winter Term the first ever Museum Curating class worked on curating an art exhibit called “The Long Twentieth Century” that recently opened in Borzello Gallery in CFA.
For Art History and Museum Studies professor Gregory Gilbert, the class is not only a good way to teach students about museum curating, but also to show off Knox’s impressive art collection.
“One of the great things about getting the gallery is that we have a nice art collection that nobody knows about. So one of the benefits of now having the gallery is that we are going to actually be able to showcase and actually present to the campus community,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert, who has curated exhibits at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, The Figge Art Museum and The Spencer Museum of Art at Kansas University, teaches students how to become curators.
“I kind of just walked them through all the different facets or aspects of constructing and installing an exhibit. We even talked about [the] principles of installation design,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert described museum curating as physically maintaining and building an art collection, organizing exhibits, researching the works of art, and writing didactics (descriptions) of them.
“With curation, basically what that involves is being an art historian in a museum,” Gilbert said.
“The Long Twentieth Century,” as the exhibit is named, has to do with twentieth century artistic, literary and philosophical themes such as modernism and postmodernism having relevance and somewhat of a revival in current ideas.
“They still speak to us and have a relevance and a meaning towards us within contemporary culture. So this theme is this idea of let’s not just look at modern art as some past trend, let’s look at it as having an ongoing relevance and significance in meaning,” Gilbert said.
This theme of modern art from the twentieth century still having relevance today can be seen by an art piece curated by junior Kylie Hoang called “Political Aunt Jemima.”
“It’s very clearly a political piece. Looking at it you can tell the artist is angry at something. There’s a very angry [woman who is enslaved] popping out of an Aunt Jemima pancake box,” Hoang said.
According to Hoang, “Political Aunt Jemima” was created during the civil rights movement, but is still relevant and speaks to racial problems that occur to this day.
“This was created in ‘68, which was pretty much the height of the civil rights movement and a lot of the pieces in the gallery have very extreme political undertones,” Hoang said.
For Gilbert, the importance of creating exhibits like these is to educate viewers as many pieces of art do.
“I just think it would benefit the public overall to kind of look at art as not just as a beautiful thing, but that it can be a way to increase your historical knowledge of periods,” Gilbert said. “It can be a way to have a better knowledge of social history and cultural history.”
Although Hoang enjoyed the class, she wished the curating done in it would have been more focused on progressivism and implementing aspects of activism.
“The class was very much ‘this is what you do in a museum, this is how it’s always been, this is the way it will always be.’ Whereas some of the museums I have worked at are pushing away from that,” Hoang said. “The museum world is constantly growing and as it grows it is becoming less white, less traditional, less conservative.”
Gilbert plans on creating a Museum Studies minor and hopes to make the exhibition program more interdisciplinary for future exhibits.
“One of the shows would be on women artists, where we will maybe collaborate with the Gender Women Studies program. I want to do an exhibition on American landscape and work with the American Studies and History departments,” Gilbert said.
The exhibition will remain in Borzello Gallery until May 17.