Exhibitions’ Histories

International conference


University of Paris 8

Centre Pompidou / University of Paris 8 / INHA

February, 6th – 8th, 2014

The project “History of Exhibitions in 20th Century“, initiated in 2011, seeks to provide a critical and interdisciplinary reflection on the phenomenon of exhibitions in our time. This project, led by two research teams of the University of Paris 8 and by the Centre Pompidou, consisted initially in the elaboration of various principles regarding the collecting and archiving of information about exhibitions, in order to produce a catalogue raisonné of Centre Pompidou’s exhibitions.

This first phase was mostly about the complexity of exhibition processes. Among other things, questions were raised about the choice of objects, access to information, selection and display of information… Writing about exhibitions, trying to tell their (hi)story, means indeed taking into account the plurality of their determinations. In December 2012, a symposium gave the opportunity to discuss the goals of the constitution of an open archive of exhibitions for the Centre Pompidou as well as for other museums or the academic world. The second phase of this project takes further the same questions and extends them along wider fields of research; art history, esthetics, museology, history of cultural policies.

The catalogue raisonné led to questions regarding the archival of exhibitions, their actors, the access to information.

December 2013 conference will seek to open new perspectives, both narrower and wider. They are narrower as far as some very specific exhibitions will be examined in their own singularity. They are also wider, to the extent that one won’t be limited to the exhibitions of Centre Pompidou. Other questions will be taken into account: about what an exhibition is nowadays, here and elsewhere, in relation to a history that should also be questioned and through the emergence of what one could call an exhibition system.

The following themes will be proposed:

1st theme: History of exhibition forms

The first theme is concerned with exhibition’s “genres”. It is both about what are the forms of exhibitions and what are their relations to other wider phenomena (including their social and political determinations). Some case studies could enrich these questions.

– Artistic and non artistic exhibitions

– Monographic exhibitions (dedicated to the promotion of artists)

– Thematic exhibitions (exhibitions by curators as authors)

– Discursive or participatory exhibitions (the exhibition as a forum)

– Biennales (recurring exhibitions)

2nd theme: Exhibition and its practices

The second theme is more precisely about the various aspects of exhibition practice. It aims at delineating its specificities and multiple possible interactions. Case studies could also be of some interest here.

– Display and displacement (permanent or temporary exhibitions).

– Supervision of artworks and/or objects of all kind

– Production (technical and/or economic questions)

– Reception (and evaluation of reception)

– Documentation (catalogues, means of communication)

3rd theme: Actors of the exhibition

The third theme is concerned with the “actors” of the exhibition: exhibition and museum curators, artists, exhibition designers and with the ways these actors participate in the creation of a complex and composite object.

– Museum curators

– Independent curators

– Exhibition designers

– Mediators

– Art critics

– Publics

4th theme: Exhibitions and institutions

The last theme is directed towards more general cultural policy questions. The concerns are more about the way various structures and institutions.

– Museums, art centers, commercial galleries

– Make use of the exhibition in a meaningful way

– Museums/FRAC

– Art centres/Kunsthalle

– Art galleries

– Non profit exhibitions (outside of institutions)

– Relations between artists, cultural institutions and their personnel

Conference Supervision:

Jérôme Glicenstein, University of Paris 8 (EA 4010 AIAC)

Bernadette Dufrêne, University of Paris 8 (Paragraphe)

Catherine Grenier, Centre Pompidou (MNAM/CCI)

Organising Committee:

Nathalie Desmet

Gwenaëlle de Kerret

Benjamin Barbier

Scientific Committee:

Bruce Altshuler (New York University)

Carles Guerra (MACBA, Barcelone)

Laurent Le Bon (Centre Pompidou Metz)

Mark Nash (Royal College of Art, Londres)

Jean-Marc Poinsot (Université Rennes 2)

Angéline Scherf (ARC, Musée d’Art Moderne Ville de Paris)

Didier Schulmann (Bibliothèque Kandinsky MNAM/CCI)

Mary Anne Staniszewski (Rensselaer Polytechnic, New York)


Centre Pompidou, Paris

Université Paris 8, Saint-Denis INHA (Institut national d’histoire de l’art), Paris

Submission rules:

Those interested in presenting a paper at the conference should send an abstract proposal of less than 500 words to nathalie.gm.desmet@gmail.com

By September 15th, 2013

Proposals may be written in English or French.

Formats Allowed:

file types are Word 2003

or 2007.doc, or .docx) or rich text format (.rtf)



Leave a Reply