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Literature review 

The most groundbreaking exhibitions in Modern art
10 most influential exhibitions since 1950

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The art world has had a long and fascinating history, expanding with the ever changing needs of people and society but at the same time challenging those very needs. Art exhibition, by its nature, is a reflection of society, mirroring its concern and interests while at the same time battling its ideologies and concepts. One of the key goals of exhibitions is to keep art relevant to the audience and speak to society at any given point, and this is one of the many reasons that it is so important to art history. Many realised that it is difficult to capture art exhibitions and galleries. Most of the time no one thinks of capturing them. Even published catalogues tend to talk about the artists’ practices, research that is undertaken into artists’ creations and their works, not the actual exhibition. Until nearly recently they were regarded as mere mediations in bridging together artists, their artworks and the audience.

The White Cube 
In the early 20th century interesting conversations took place about how to rise appreciations inside museums, they started  experimenting with lighting, ways of display and configurations of artworks on walls, all of that to reach what they hoped for the most successful approach of display in a museum, the secretary of the Boston MFA Benjamin Ives Gilman approached this problem in his study (1918) of suggestions to combat what he called “museum fatigue”. That is when museum appreciation increased and they started to understand gallery space rather than just comprehend it as a mediation.
The white Cube is a term introduced by artist and critic Brian O’Doherty in 1976
I think O’Doherty research is very important because he writes art history from the gallery space’s perspective, which means, rather than writing about objects, he writes about situations , which is very close to my own interest.
The important of art exhibitions and art criticism emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth where they became the fundamental mediators between artists at that time and the public. This was brought about by the change of relationships in the art world, as Elizabeth Holt stated in her book “a change in the public’s relationship to painting and sculpture and in the role of the artist himself.” After 1815 artists became more aware of the importance of the exhibition space and its effects on the artwork, the cultural meaning of art is established and administrated by the space itself through its narrative form and temporality, also it has this gift of expressing the artwork’s point of view, Cline, Anna C. (2012) theorised that the exhibition works as a way of contextualisation art through putting it in the eye of the public in an organised and strategic way, usually through telling a narrative and asking questions that end up with the viewer thinking about. But how can a space affect the artwork?

The Exhibitions 
Art movements normally appear after a groundbreaking and innovative idea of art comes to life, changing how people think of art. Many art exhibitions left a mark in the art field, but when reviewing my literature I chose from a long list only 10 groundbreaking exhibitions, they were chosen based on how big the influence they left and their innovativeness, also on how likely they’re characterised of a specific type of practice. While the majority of the chosen exhibitions are from Europe and North America, several were from different places too, an international survey of the art field. (Hoffmann, 2014) explored in his book the leading art exhibitions of the twenty first century, he tried not only documenting the evolution of curating but in his book he opened new propositions for the future of exhibition field.

What came to my understanding in reviewing this literature, was that in order to understand how those groundbreaking exhibitions were such a success we need to understand first the mechanism and the importance of the gallery space. Exploring the exhibition as a medium itself, as an autonomous work of art that holds challenges and knowledge, that what I hope to explore further. 

Elizabeth Gilmore Holt, The Triumph of Art for the Public, 1785-1848: The Emerging Role of Exhibitions and Critics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983) 

Cline, Anna C., “The Evolving Role of the Exhibition and its Impact on Art and Culture”. Senior Theses, Trinity College, Hartford, CT 2012.

Museums Association, “Pay in Museums,” quoted in Elise Coralie Edwards, “The Future for Curators,” Papers from the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, vol.18 (2009): 98

Hoffmann, J., Christov-Bakargiev, C., Gioni, M., Jacob, M. J., Lind, M., Morgan, J., . . . Pedrosa, A. (2014). Show time: the 50 most influential exhibitions of contemporary art. London: Thames & Hudson.

ODoherty, B. (1989). Inside the white cube: the ideology of the gallery space. Berkeley: University of California Press.


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