History of the Art Museum

This seminar explores the development of the modern art museum as an architectural type, measured against the evolving nature of display objects, audience, urbanity, technology, and curatorial practices. We focus on the spatial relationship between the gallery space and the material on view and discover moments of co-amplification. This course occupies a space in between architectural history, art history, curatorial practice, and exhibition design.

From the consolidation of the type in early 19th-century Europe to more contemporary critiques of the White Cube, the art museum has been the primary site where symbiotic trajectories between artistic and architectural development have played out. Architecture often makes aggressive commentaries on objects it is designed to display, and works of art acquire new significance in the physical environments they occupy. The reverse is also true, especially as museums learn to be flexible and adapt over time. 

The course will pay particular attention to how cultural artifacts from beyond the Western canon are dealt with and look at the importation of the art museum as a program into non-Western countries, which sometimes responded with their own canons and classifications of fine art. The evolving public is similarity a major concern, as we explore and update the concept of Museums without Walls and the ideas of participatory, non-hierarchical, and open-ended museum experiences.  

Building on the course’s interdisciplinary premise, we will be involving curators and exhibition designers to discuss their disciplinary concerns and strategies. 

Note: the instructor will offer live course presentations on 01/19-01/21. To access the detailed schedule and Zoom links, please visit the Live Course Presentations Website. If you need assistance, please contact Estefanía Ibáñez