Driven by the museum’s 11 curatorial departments in collaboration with the museum’s conservation and science department, the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries and Archives, and the publishing department, research forms the foundation of the Art Institute’s reputation for innovation and scholarship.
Generously funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, this project seeks to create an international conversation on curatorial training and strategies that are able to map social justice into museum practices. Collectives from Chicago and Cape Town, South Africa, meet with artists and practitioners, curators, academics, educators, and other thought leaders on how to best engage in fresh dialogues on acquisitions and exhibitions, collaborations with emerging artists and other creative enterprises, and paths to expand the art historical canon. These activities will culminate in a public symposium for Chicago-area students at all stages of their academic careers who are interested in curatorial practice.
The main goals for this exchange are:
To connect, internationalize, and build on existing mentorship and curatorial training programs in both countries for students who are typically underrepresented in museums
To create an open forum for participants to explore curatorial approaches beyond commonly applied cultural interpretations of geographic positions, with an emphasis on equity and social justice
To engender reciprocity and concretize international partnerships through plans for future institutional collaborations, including further joint training programs, exhibitions, and art acquisitions
A new initiative made possible through generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will be used to conduct a two-year strategic assessment of the ways in which film, video, performance, and electronic and digital media works are acquired and cared for at the museum and across regional institutions. As the field of time-based media expands, we look to increase the digital storage space available for our ever-growing collection of these works; to reexamine and build upon our current methods of acquisition and records management; and to increase our technical support capabilities for the installation, maintenance, and preservation of equipment necessary to present these works to the public.
The Art Institute’s history with time-based media dates to 1966, when the first object to include a moving-image component—George Segal’s The Truck—was acquired. In the decades since, the collection has grown to include a wide range of formats, from 8mm film to proprietary software. The museum has presented more than 50 exhibitions and installations of time-based works in recent years, including, in 2017, Record. Repeat., the first large-scale solo exhibition in the United States on Zhang Peili, the first video artist active in China; major presentations of work by Steve McQueen (in 2002 and 2012, the latter including a full-length scholarly catalogue); and the first comprehensive survey of Frances Stark’s video and digital production, from her prescient lo-fi Cat Videos, begun in 1999, through slideshows derived from her Instagram feed, @therealstarkiller. The departments of Photography, Modern and Contemporary Art, and Architecture and Design are actively acquiring new objects of time-based media for the museum’s collection. Curators and conservators in these departments have published on the museum’s permanent holdings, most notably through the 2009 catalogue, Film, Video, and New Media at the Art Institute of Chicago, which explores more than 80 works, including those by early pioneers Rodney Graham, Jenny Holzer, and Nam June Paik, and an important gift of 15 notable time-based works from the Donna and Howard Stone Collection. Preservation work has also been shared at expert convenings, including a presentation on a groundbreaking treatment of Nam June Paik’s Family of Robot: Baby (1986) at the 45th annual meeting of the American Institute for Conservation in May 2017.
In 2009, the Getty Foundation launched its Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI) to explore the possibilities of presenting collection research in new ways. It brought together a consortium of nine museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, to develop sustainable and replicable models for online scholarly collection catalogues and assess how a change in the way museums think about publishing might impact institutional structures. As a result of the initiative, the Art Institute published its first two pioneering digital scholarly catalogues on Monet and Renoir. Following this effort, the Art Institute received further funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to publish several more catalogues, and we continue to publish online with support from additional funders, including the Luce Foundation and the Lunder Foundation, among other generous donors. This support has allowed us to publish 10 catalogues to date, with others in progress.
The very definition of an online scholarly publication suggests accessibility and functionalities beyond print—a complex and groundbreaking endeavor entailing many challenges and opportunities. In developing these catalogues, we have produced publications that embrace the new, exciting digital world without leaving behind the heft and authority conventionally ascribed to the printed book. To this end, we strive to make the digital format familiar or comfortable enough for readers so that our catalogues can find a place among both scholars and a wider range of users who come across the catalogues on our website.
Browse a list of our online scholarly catalogues.