Exhibitions of contemporary art over the last 50 years are increasingly a focus for academic study. This session seeks to reflect on this development, addressing what it might mean to analyse contemporary art not in the context of when and where it is made, but of its public display. At a moment when a new field of exhibition studies seems to be emerging, and when art history is turning to exhibitions as legitimate research ‘outputs’, it is time to consider the historiographic question of the relationship between exhibition studies and neighbouring fields: art history, of course, but also sociology, philosophy and visual and cultural studies.
Attention needs to be paid to the distinctive nature of exhibitions as time-based and spatial entities involving artists, curators, designers and, not least, publics. However, this begs questions of definition, and prompts us to ask what kind of histories might be made out of, say, a performance at an opening or exhibitions produced solely for publication, television or the internet. Debating the implications of a history premised on ‘landmark’ exhibitions will be central to this session, as will exploring the use in exhibition studies of methods of historical enquiry that privilege the transient and ‘minor’ over the canonical. Moreover, roles for archaeology, genealogy, or theories of the event or longue durée might be addressed.
We invite papers from art historians, curators and others interested in thinking through or rethinking existing historiographic models for the study of exhibitions from a variety of geopolitical perspectives.
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