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Behind the Scenes Curatorial

MAM Behind the Scenes: Tanya Paul, Curator of European Art

Tanya Paul, Isabel and Alfred Bader Curator of European Art
Tanya Paul, Isabel and Alfred Bader Curator of European Art
This is the fourth in a series of blog posts highlighting a variety of different positions within the Milwaukee Art Museum. Each day, hundreds of visitors enter the Milwaukee Art Museum to stare in awe at the incredible wealth of artworks within the museum’s collection. But what can too often go unrecognized is the equally awe-inspiring work of the many museum staff members, without whom the museum in its current state could not exist. “MAM Behind the Scenes” is a blog series written by Digital Learning intern Emma Fallone to showcase the wide range of positions that make up a museum, and to reveal just a few of the many people whose work makes the Milwaukee Art Museum a source of inspiration and education.

Can you give a brief description of your job, in thirty seconds or less?
As a curator, I do many different things. I work on everything from research and building the permanent collection, to working on exhibitions, to the display of the permanent collection – and that’s one of the big projects we’re working on now, the renovation and re-installation of the collection.

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Exhibitions

Making an Exhibition, Part 4: Storyboards, Design, and Installation

Pin board of a Milwauke Art Museum Curator. Photo by Mel Buchanan.
A “visual checklist” pinboard at my desk. Photo by the author.

Picking paint colors. Stepping under ladders in closed off galleries. Artfully arranging teacups. All are things I’ve done in the past few weeks, and all are entirely fun perks to a curator’s job. Beyond the fun, what I aim to do in this post is go a little deeper into the process of installing, painting, and arranging an exhibition.

In the first three posts of this series, I’ve addressed steps to developing the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Grete Marks: When Modern Was Degenerate exhibition (on view September 6, 2012 – January 1, 2013), from idea to loan paperwork to marketing.

The next step of bringing this incredible story and artwork physically to the public were the conversations we had about the design of the gallery, because there are as many ways to display artwork as there are paint colors in the Sherwin-Williams sample book.

Categories
Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Exhibitions

Making an Exhibition, Part 3: Approvals and Loans and Email and Paperwork

"Grete Marks" exhibition committee proposal, front page.
“Grete Marks” exhibition committee formal proposal, front page.

In the first two posts of this series, I’ve addressed the origins of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Grete Marks: When Modern Was Degenerate exhibition (on view September 6, 2012 – January 1, 2013).  The exhibition went from my admiration of a certain artwork I didn’t know well, to years of background research to learn the context and nuance of the artist’s story.

In those steps, I looked at artwork, read about Bauhausian ideas, and traveled to Berlin and London to meet with curators and examine stunning teapots. For the next part of the task of making the exhibition, I mostly sat at a computer in Milwaukee generating forms and writing emails.

An exhibition goes from a curator’s idea to a museum reality through a series of approvals up the chain-of-command. To bring my personal research on Grete Marks into a real Museum exhibition, I first spoke with my curatorial colleagues and the Museum’s Chief Curator about the idea.

Categories
Behind the Scenes Curatorial

What Does It Mean To “Curate”?

Pin board of a Milwauke Art Museum Curator. Photo by Mel Buchanan.
Pin board of a Milwauke Art Museum Curator. Photo by Mel Buchanan.

Although I try very hard not to bring work home with me, sometimes (okay, most of the time) I can’t help it. I just love museums, and so I often find myself thinking about them after 5 p.m.

Something I’ve been mulling over for a while is the use of the word “curate”, and how the phrase has become a buzzword around the world wide web. What does the word “curate” mean in popular language–and more importantly, what does it mean for museum professionals that this word is being re-appropriated?

It was because of the social media site Pinterest that I started thinking about how people who aren’t museum professionals or art historians use the word curate.