A Moving Experience: Exhibition infrastructures and the portability of art

Nushelle de Silva, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, nushelle@mit.edu

Art historians are increasingly making aspects of travel central to their scholarship. Barbara Furlotti discusses how moving antiquities to Renaissance collections mobilised a wide network of actors. Kimberly Orcutt and Robert E. May show how artists and connoisseurs involved in changing 19th-century tariff regulations in the United States shaped ideas about the function of art. Jennifer L. Roberts goes so far as to argue that how objects move is integral to what they represent. This panel seeks to expand this scholarship, which focuses largely on works moving between collections, to include works of art that travel with repetitive frequency for temporary museum exhibitions. Exhibitions have been amply scrutinised for how the objects they showcase are mediated by the museums that possess them, the curators who select them for display, the designers who craft the spatial experience of the exhibition, and the audiences who view them. Missing, however, is an analysis of movement itself, which would include the roles of conservators and registrars, logistics such as transport and insurance, barriers to circulation such as customs regulations or tariffs, and objects that lend themselves to more frequent circulation, such as replicas and duplicates, in shaping how exhibitions emotionally move the public. This panel seeks papers that engage with how these practices have changed over time or vary across regions, how they affect museums of differing sizes and scope, and the niceties of collaboration and negotiation between institutions in sharing exhibitions. How might this expanded view of the exhibition nuance the current view of an exhibition event? In turn, how might the migratory turn in art history productively illuminate the politics of how museums circulate rather than sequester cultural objects?

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