ed. by Andrew Graciano. Ashgate, February 2015. 308 p. ill. ISBN 9781472428271 (cl.), $119.95.
Reviewed July 2015
Ashley Peterson, Research and Instruction Librarian, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, email@example.com
This volume comprises a collection of eleven essays by museum curators, academics, and independent scholars in the field of art history. The editor, Andrew Graciano, presents these essays within the broad framework of alternative exhibition spaces in order to explore the role of artists, curators, and audience vis-a-vis dominant modes of exhibition in a given cultural period.
Graciano states early that this collection is not intended to be a comprehensive history of alternative exhibition spaces; rather, it is meant to present case studies on a diverse range of artists, periods, and geographic locations (e.g., early nineteenth-century America, Oskar Kokoschka, Marcel Broodthaers, postcolonial Africa) that address the theme of art exhibited outside of officially sanctioned spaces of display. This volume should be seen as complementary and supplementary to more comprehensive works such as Cherry and Cullen's Spectacle and Display (Blackwell, 2008) and Klonk's Spaces of Experience (Yale, 2009).
The publication is written in a style that is at once academic—presenting original arguments based on thorough, cited research—and accessibly lucid. The essays are, almost without exception, engaging and successful in their stated aims. They variously explore issues related to art exhibition that include artist/curator tension, alternative exhibition as rebellion or commercial endeavor, the role of the audience, gendered spaces, and exhibition as a locus of power.
When considered in relation to the volume's central organizing principle, however, several of the essays do not have much to say about alternative exhibition venues as defined by the editor; one is about an exhibition in the Louvre, while two others discuss shows in major commercial galleries. This by no means lessens the value of the essays themselves, but it does beg the question of why Graciano chose to emphasize non-traditional modes of display over other themes that are strongly present in each piece: exhibition as a site of control and struggle between an artist and dominant cultural authorities, and the essential, often elided role of the audience.
The work includes editor and contributor biographies, endnotes for all essays, a select bibliography, and an index. Hardbound with a dust jacket, casebound, and printed on semi-gloss paper stock, it is of good material quality and displays thoughtful layout and typesetting. It includes twenty full-color illustrations, grouped in a distinct section, and twenty-eight black-and-white illustrations distributed throughout the essays. Each image is thoroughly captioned.
Ultimately, this volume is recommended for collections with a strong emphasis on exhibition history, the culture of display, and museology. Though the novice reader may desire more thematic cohesion, advanced students and professional-level researchers will find it of value.