Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Exhibitions

Making an Exhibition, Part 2: Research (with Travel!)

"Grete Marks" display at the Jewish Museum Berlin. Photo by the author.
“Grete Marks” display at the Jewish Museum Berlin. Photo by the author.

As I moved through the stages of putting together the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Grete Marks: When Modern Was Degenerate exhibition (on view September 6, 2012 – January 1, 2013), I began by researching the designer through secondary literature and compiled a list of 417 Grete Marks ceramics and watercolors in institutional collections.

Those tasks I could do mostly from my office in Milwaukee, thanks to great library services and generous colleagues at other institutions.

However, to build relationships with curators for borrowing artwork, to meet with Grete Marks’ daughter Frances Marks, and to personally examine objects so that I could make informed decisions about which of the ceramic vessels we might want to request for loan to our exhibition, I needed to take a research trip to London and Berlin.

It was a tough job, but someone had to do it…

While researching in England, I made visits to “store” (Brit speak for “storage”) to see artworks at the Victoria & Albert Museum, The British Museum, and the National Museum in Wales. Those institutions have in their collections gifts from the artist herself, as well as from her husband, Harold Marks, and her daughter, Dr. Frances Marks (as do the Potteries Museum and the Museum at Wales’ Prifysgol Aberystwyth University, which I did not visit).