Paper Assignment: Wall Labels for an Exhibition (Summer 2020)

Imagine that you are a curator who designs exhibitions and chooses artworks for visitors to see at the museum where you work. First, you must decide on a theme that you want your exhibition to be about (see some possible choices below). Then you must choose four artworks (one for each wall in your gallery room) to exhibit to the public within that theme. Once the visitors come to see your exhibition, they will know nothing about the FACTS and HISTORY of the artworks or the artists who made them. It will be your job to write the information about each artwork that would be printed and posted on the wall on a label stuck next to your artwork, so that the visitor could learn more about each artwork as they look at it. There is an example of a wall label at the end of these instructions. Please follow these steps:

1). Select a Theme: Possible themes for your exhibition could be:

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Art and War
Art and Pandemics/Disease
Art and Portraiture
Landscape Art
Art and the Nude
Portraits of Heroes

You may also choose four artworks in the same style (such as Early Renaissance Art; Baroque Art; Impressionist Art; etc.)

You can also choose your own theme but check with me first to make sure it is appropriate for this class.

2). Choose four artworks that are related to that theme: You may use your eTextbook to find the images (easiest way), or you could do an internet search for artworks related to your theme (i.e., Google “Famous Landscapes,” or “Portraits of American Heroes,” etc.). Make sure your four artworks were made by four different artists to maximize the amount of information you can include.

3). Find the basic information on each artwork: On each “wall label” for EACH artwork, please include:

A small “thumbnail” size image of the artwork that you chose which you can copy from the internet.
The artist’s full name and his or her birth (and death) dates in parenthesis after their name
The full and correct title of the artwork, in italics
The date that the artwork was made
The media or material from which the artwork is made
The style of the artwork
The nationality of the artist
The location of the artwork/museum where it is normally on view
The THEME or TOPIC of YOUR EXHIBITION

4). Research each of the four artworks: Write at least one to one to two (1 to 2) pages of text for each artwork where you give as much information about the artwork as possible. Make sure to include information on:

The SUBJECT MATTER of the artwork (what scene or story is depicted?)
The STYLE of the artwork (is it from the Early Renaissance? The Impressionist period?)
The HISTORY of the OBJECT (that is, why did the artist make it?)
The HISTORICAL CONTEXT (what was going on in the period when the artwork was made?)
The ARTIST’S BIOGRAPHY (use Oxford Art Online on the KCC Library Databases page for bios of artists)
Any special TECHNIQUES that the artist used to make the artwork (What is it made from and how? Is it a fresco? An oil on canvas? Etc.)
Were there any known INFLUENCES on the artist that inspired the artwork?
What is the artwork about, that is, what is its MEANING?
How does this artwork fit into the THEME or TOPIC of your exhibition?

You should have a minimum of four (4) pages of text, at least one page for each artwork. However, the more you write on each piece the more information you will be giving to your visitor, and that will make for a better wall label and will earn you more points. The example below shows a page and a half length wall label. Another way to judge it is to make sure each label is between 400 and 500 words.

5). Citations: Please make sure to tell the visitor where your information is from. Please add parenthetical notes after each sentence where you add information you found in e-books, articles, museum websites and other art-related websites. These are citations, and they are required. Without citations, your paper will be returned to you without edits. I do not edit plagiarized papers.

Here’s what a typical wall label should look like:

Hirst
Damien Hirst (born 1965 – still alive)
For the Love of God
2007
8,601 diamonds over a human skull from 1810
Post-Modernism
Britain
White Cube Gallery, London
Art and Death Theme

Damien Hirst was born in Bristol, England and grew up in Leeds, England. After having a difficult time in school and some brushes with the law, he was eventually accepted into the art school known as Goldsmiths at the University of London. While a student there, he worked in a mortuary, and this experience influenced Hirst to be interested in the theme of death in his artworks. His later works are about the cycle of life and death that all humans experience (Tate.org.uk).
Hirst is famous for creating very shocking artworks, such as a full-length, real shark that he placed in a tank of formaldehyde, known as The Physical Impossibilities of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), which gained him international attention. He was associated with a group of young artists who were making shocking post-modern art; these artists became known collectively as the Young British Artists, or YBAs (Gallagher, Damien Hirst, 2012).
The title of this work in the exhibition, For the Love of God, is said to have come from a question his mother asked him, “For the love of God, what are you going to make next?” (Shaw, New York Times, 2007). Hirst has said he was inspired to make this artwork after seeing an Aztec turquoise skull in the British Museum as a student. However, he also made a crystal skull with another artist, John LeKay, in 1993. The subject matter of a skull is usually an example of a memento mori, or a traditional image that is meant to remind the viewer of the fragility and temporality of human existence. Such images were popular throughout the history of art, across the centuries and cultures. In Hirst’s work, the sculpture seems, however, to laugh in the face of death. This is highlighted by the exposure of the perfectly set teeth, original to the skull (Hirst, For the Love of God, 2008).
Hirst purchased 8,601 ethically sourced diamonds from the gem dealer Bentley & Skinner (Steinmetz, Art 21 Magazine, 2009). The diamonds were cut and set by an expert jeweler. The use of diamonds, valued in this artwork at $28 million, also makes the statement that art collectors value money over any other human experience, including death. The artwork was made in 2007, before the major international economic collapse of 2008, which was felt globally, though it effected the United States most prominently (Gallagher, Damien Hirst, 2012).
Hirst is a post-modern artist. Post modernism is defined as “skepticism, irony and philosophical critiques of the concepts of universal truths and objective reality” (tate.org.uk). For the Love of God is also an example of conceptual art, in which the idea presented by the artwork is given more value than the artwork itself. Here, the idea of death, and a person laughing in the face of death, especially if they have money, is the ultimate meaning of the artwork. It does not matter that Hirst did not make the diamonds or the skull, or that he purchased the materials and had a specialist put them together. His idea is the artwork (Gallagher, Damien Hirst, 2012).

[You are writing four of these, one for each different work of art and artist.]

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