Bruce Altshuler is Director of the Program in Museum Studies in the Graduate School of Arts and Science at New York University where he leads the courses Art Exhibitions After 1960, Museums and Contemporary Art, and Research in Museum Studies. He has held positions at organizations across New York including at the New-York Historical Society, Zabriskie Gallery, and Christie’s Education, and he was Director of the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum in Long Island City for six years. Altshuler is the author of The Avant-Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the 20th Century (1994), Isamu Noguchi (1994), Salon to Biennial: Exhibitions that Made Art History, 1863-1959 (2008), and Biennials and Beyond: Exhibitions that Made Art History, 1962-2002 (2013). He is also the editor of Collecting the New: Museums and Contemporary Art (2005), and co-editor of Isamu Noguchi: Essays and Conversations (1994). He has published extensively and lectured internationally about exhibition and curatorial history, the history of museums, and modern and contemporary art. Recently, he has written “The Art Market and Exhibitions of the Avant-Garde” in Double Trouble in Exhibiting the Contemporary: Art Fairs and Shows (2020), and “Innovating Sites,” in Site Read: Seven Curators on their Landmark Exhibitions (2020). Altshuler has been a member of the graduate faculty of the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies, and the Board of Directors of the International Association of Art Critics/United States Section (AICA/USA).
Reconstructing, Reinterpreting, and Re-presenting Historical Exhibitions in Light of the Digital
The study of historical exhibitions has become a central element of a broadened art history, with exhibitions functioning as critical points of intersection of a dynamic range of individual and institutional actors, and of the larger systems within which they act. The investigation and analysis of exhibitions has also played an important role within curatorial studies. These two areas of inquiry into historical exhibitions come together in the phenomenon of exhibitions about exhibitions. This paper will focus on one kind of exhibition about exhibitions; the re-creation and re-presentation of shows from the past. These efforts, such as the Fondazione Prada’s 2013 reconstruction of the 1969 exhibition When Attitudes Become Form, have been much discussed in terms of their public success or failure—but they have been less discussed as research enterprises, projects that expand knowledge and understanding of the original exhibition and of exhibitions more generally. Moreover, the resources and capabilities of digital technologies promise to enrich this expanding field. But exactly what does reconstructing past exhibitions teach us about the original shows themselves, and about their larger cultural surroundings? And how might digital tools and approaches allow us to advance beyond what could be done in this regard with non-digital resources and strategies?