George Washington by Hiram Powers

You are here

ART 496 A: Art Internship

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
MW 2:20pm - 4:00pm
ART 132
Emily Zimmerman
Emily Zimmerman

Syllabus Description:

ART 496:  Curating Contemporary Art

Instructor: Emily Zimmerman,

This class examines the production of exhibitions from both theoretical and practical standpoints. We will look at exhibitions as a vehicle for the reception of art, philosophies of aesthetic experience, knowledge production, and cultural politics.  In order to do so, we will study curatorial methodologies, historical exhibition formats, key watershed exhibitions that changed the dialog on the practice, as well as the practical skills associated with realizing an exhibition. Special attention will be paid to artist-curated exhibitions, which make up many of the most important experimental exhibitions over the last 50 years. During the class you will participate in the production of the exhibition, “James Coupe: Exercises in Passivity.”


Gallery Sitting

In addition to class time, each week you’ll gallery sit for 2.5 hours at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery. The schedule for gallery sitting hours will be determined on the first day of class and will constitute 30% of your grade.


Final Project 

For your final project, you will have to create an idea for an exhibition with 3 – 5 artists. Your proposal should consist of three parts:

  1. an exhibition narrative (300-500 words) a list of works, detailing ‘tombstone’ information (artists, title, date, materials, dimensions),
  2. a 100 – 200 word description and an image for each piece
  3. a biography for each artist (100 – 300 words)



Participation: 30%

Gallery sitting: 30%

Engagement (contributions to class discussion, proactive outreach): 20%

Final project: 20%



Class #1: Hello

Review of syllabus, tour of the Jacob Lawrence Gallery & review of the gallery’s history and mission, and set gallery sitting schedule.


Class #2: Setting the Stage

Overview of workflow for organizing exhibitions and things to consider as you start out.

Recommended Reading:

Peter Smithson, “Installing Exhibitions: A Practical Guide” pgs. 1 – 75.


Class #3: Setting the Stage, Part II

Art Handling 101 with LEVELIT: Jes Gettler and Alexa Anderson

Recommended Reading:

Peter Smithson, “Installing Exhibitions: A Practical Guide” pgs. 76-140


Class #4: Thinking About Space

The origin of museums & the historic conventions of display from the Cabinet of Curiosities to the White Cube.

Recommended Readings:

Brian O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986).

Svetlana Alpers, “The Museum as a Way of Seeing”

Henri Focillion, “Form in the Realm of Space” in The Life of Forms in Art, p.65-66. 


Class #5: Curatorial Research

How does one conduct curatorial research? We'll discuss the studio visit, visiting key local, national, and international exhibitions, art publications, critical theory, and other sources for knowledge and inspiration.

Recommended Readings:

Adrian George, “Introduction” “Starting Off” and “From Idea to Reality” in The Curator’s Handbook, p. 2-66.


Class #6: Exhibition Design

Recommended Readings:

Mary Anne Staniszewski, The Power of Display: A History of Exhibition Installations at the Museum of Modern Art (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998).

Adrian George, “Putting a Show Together” in The Curator’s Handbook, p. 152-182.


Class #7: Contracts, Loan Forms, Budgets, and Condition Reports

Recommended Readings:

Adrian George, “Contracts, Negotiations, Obligations, and Evaluations”  in The Curator’s Handbook, p. 110-119.





Deinstallation for Angélica Maria Millán Lozano + Camilo Godoy: Lugar del Trabajo

Come to class with painting clothes


Class #10: INSTALL DAY

Installation for James Coupe: Exercises in Passivity

Come to class with painting clothes


Class #11: INSTALL DAY

Installation for James Coupe: Exercises in Passivity

Come to class with painting clothes


Class #12: Artist Curated Exhibitions

Recommended Readings:

Jean-Hubert Martin, “The ‘Musee Sentimental’ of Daniel Spoerri” in Visual Display: Culture Beyond Appearances

Elena Filipovic, “When Exhibitions Become Form: On the History of the Artist as Curator” Mousse, no. 41.



Class #13:  Printed Materials & Exhibition Prosthetics

Recommended Readings:

Gilda Williams, “Introduction” and “Chapter 1” in How to Write about Contemporary Art p. 9 – 41.

Joseph Grigley, Exhibition Prosthetics (Bedford Press, 2010) p. 1 - 64.

“Excellence in Exhibition Label Writing Competition 2017” American Assosication of Museums

Aram Moshayedi, “The Narrative Conceit” in Stories of Almost Everyone, p. 14-23.


Class #14: Education & Public Programs

Recommended Readings:

Liam Gillick “Educational Turns:  Part One” in Paul O’Neill & Mick Wilson, Curating and the Educational Turn

Luis Camnitzer, Pablo Helguera, and Betty Martin, eds. Art and Education (Portland: PSU Art and Social Practice, 2014).

Mark Allan, “Machine Project Guide to Planning and Curating Events”

Hito Steyerl, “The Terror of Total Dasein”


Class #15: Curatorial Ethics

Recommended Readings:

Maura Reilly “Foreword,” “Chapter 1,” “Chapter 5: A Call to Arms,” in Curatorial Activism (London: Thames & Hudson, 2018).

Helen Molesworth, “How to Install Art Like a Feminist”

Lynne Cooke, “In Lieu of Higher Ground” in What Makes a Great Exhibition? p.32-43.

James McAnally, “The Work of the Institution in the Age of Professionalization”


Class #16: Ten Notable Exhibitions 1960 - present

We'll discuss ten exhibitions that have shifted the dialog on curatorial practice, and what made these such landmark exhibitions. Exhibitions discussed include:

- Primary Structures (The Jewish Museum, 1966) curated by Kynaston McShine.
- Cybernetic Serendipity (ICA London, 1969) curated by Jasia Reichardt.
- Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form (Kunsthalle Bern, 1969) curated by Harald Szeeman.
- Information (Museum of Modern Art, 1970) curated by Kynaston McShine.
- Les Immaterieux (1985, Centre Pompidou) curated by French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard and Thierry Chaput.
- Les Magicienne de la Terre (Centre Georges Pompidou, 1989) curated by Jean-Hubert Martin.
- 1993 Whitney Biennial (Whitney Museum of American Art, 1993) curated by Elizabeth Sussman, Thelma Golden, Lisa Phillips, and John G. Hanhardt.
- inSITE97 (Various sites in Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California, 1997) curated by Jessica Bradley, Olivier Debroise, Ivo Mesquita, Sally Yard.
- Documenta 11 (City of Kassel, 2002) curated by Okwei Enwezor.
- WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (MOCA, 2007) curated by Connie Butler.

Recommended Readings:
Harald Szeeman, Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form (Kunsthalle Bern, 1969).


Class #17: Henry Art Gallery visit + discussion with Curators


Class #18: Goodbye

Final presentations

Students give  a 10-minute presentation on their exhibition to present to the class.


Catalog Description: 
Internships in conjunction with Art faculty and partners in the large visual arts community. Credit/no-credit only.
Last updated: 
March 27, 2019 - 2:00am