Offsite/Onsite: Curating Contemporary Art

Today, everybody is a curator—we supposedly curate our meals, our social media feeds, and our outfits. But what does it mean to curate exhibitions of contemporary art today? This course examines the working processes of organizing exhibitions within the field of contemporary visual arts and the context of both art institutions, such as museums, and outside of museums.  This course examines the theoretical and practical considerations of curating “offsite” and “onsite.” We will examine the frameworks around both of those sites and formats, such as responding to a site’s history or working with artists on site-specific commissions. The aim is to familiarize students with various aspects of exhibition-making ranging from conceptual development to the physical realization of exhibitions. This course introduces and engages students in a broad spectrum of exhibition presentations and institutional contexts, with a focus on different exhibition typologies of “offsite” and “onsite,” ideas of audience engagement, curatorial responsibility, working with artists, questions of history and the contemporary moment, and risk-taking.

This course will be organized around case studies of major exhibitions organized by both Eva Respini and Dan Byers at a broad range of institutions including the ICA/Boston, Venice Biennale, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard, and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, as well as those curated by select guest lecturers. Many class sessions will involve visits to nearby museums and galleries and other “offsite” venues.  Through readings and discussion, viewing assignments, and guest lectures, we will critically analyze the role of curators and art institutions, and examine the ways contemporary art and its reception in exhibition engages with broader social, cultural, and political issues.

Throughout the semester, students will develop ideas and parameters for an exhibition, culminating in a final presentation that will include a proposal, preliminary list of artists, an exhibition design, and work plan. Instructors will alternate teaching classes, with a few key sessions taught together.

Class meetings will take place across Boston at museums and arts organizations. Locations are subject to change, please consult the syllabus for more details.