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Collaborative Curating

Posted By Natalie A. Mault Curator, LSU Museum of Art, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Collaborative Curating


The thought of collaborating in a museum field that already has its fair share of stresses and deadlines, brings me back to the days of group projects in high school. Even now, collaborating seems like a daunting task.


The panel discussion began with moderator Cynthia Burlingham, Deputy Director of Collections at the Hammer Museum and Director at the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, who discussed a collaboration with the artist Robert Gober, who co-curated a retrospective of works by Charles Burchfield. This notion of inviting an artist to make connections to another artist’s works sounded fabulous, even if it wasn’t clear as to why Gober was the particular artist-curator selected for this exhibition. I suppose that is a task for me to research on my own.

The discussion continued with similar presentations and slide images of the curatorial installations, starting with Shelley R. Langdale, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the city-wide recurring event, Philagrafika. My impression of this collaborative project was an overall sense of intrigue and amazement – how is this project possible; what is the time frame to make something like this happen; how is this funded; what curators have the time to organize a city-wide event; etc., etc. Certainly I would not be able to, even as a part of a group of several curators, create a recurring, multi-collaborative, city-wide event on top of the daily curatorial needs of my institution. And then I discovered that an outside project manager oversees the project, and it all made a bit more sense. Still, the amount of community involvement given towards this one project is something for every city to strive towards.

Adriana Proser, John H. Foster Curator for Traditional Asian Art at the Asia Society Museum, presented her collaboration with the PBS filmmaker, David Grubin. My initial sense was that the project seemed more like good-luck and good-timing than a collaborative effort. These two separate entities happened to be working on a similar subject matter, the Buddha, at the same time. Although impressive, the overall scale of this project and the $1 million funding budget from the NEH, made the project appear somewhat out of reach for me and my institution. And again, I was back to feeling like collaborative curating was a daunting task.


The final two panel presentations by Sarah Schroth, Nancy Hanks Senior Curator at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, and Joaneath Spicer, James A. Murnaghan Curator of Renaissance and Baroque Art at The Walters Art Museum brought me out of my self-doubt and feelings of daunt, even though the scale of their projects again sounded improbable at my institution. Schroth discussed a collaborative effort with museums overseas (the Guggenheim in Venice and the Tate, London), but she also worked with faculty members at Duke University to create a greater understanding of the overall exhibition on the Vorticists. Similarly, Spicer worked with a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University to create a greater understanding of her exhibition on touch. These were the collaborative projects that seem the most possible for me – the idea of working with local artists and academic faculty, to not only create a better understanding of art, but to also establish a stronger bond with the community. It dawned on me, and was stated several times throughout the conference, that this sense of community involvement and ownership is the key to the future success of museums.


Overall, collaborative projects still seem daunting, but this panel presented collaborative efforts involving a wide range of participants, making collaborative curating seem somewhat less complicated.


Natalie A. Mault

Curator, LSU Museum of Art

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