Association of Art Historians Annual Conference

Sculpture and its Exhibition Histories
External event
30th March 2012
Open University, Milton Keynes, 29-31 March 2012
Henry Moore Institute Session, Friday 30 March

It is a commonplace that sculpture is best encountered to be appreciated and that its forms, spaces and meanings are inadequately captured by the photographic image.

This session takes up this familiar complaint, arguing that over the last hundred years or so it has been through sculpture's exhibition that it has been most articulately staged, and its complex meanings and histories have been most sensitively presented.  Unlike published accounts of sculpture, its exhibitions have been strikingly successful in opening up the material and formal life of sculpture, constructing arguments through presentation and highlighting the subtle, nuanced relations between objects and practices less articulated in more official, text-based readings and histories. Such presentations are to be found in exhibitions, indoor and out, particularly focused on sculpture, and in the interests of curators with specialization in sculpture, but they are also evident in broader art exhibitions in which sculpture is highlighted in relation to other media and cultural concerns.

This session takes up these issues, looking at the ways in which exhibition models for sculpture were developed across Europe from the early 1950s to the late 1980s. These were decades which also, of course, witnessed radical sculptural experimentation and a widespread reassessment of sculpture's limits and possibilities. The eight papers that make up this session each reconsider specific exhibition case studies, some well-known, others less so, asking what lessons these ambitious projects might hold for our understanding of the presentation and reception of sculpture then and today.


Chairs: Lisa Le Feuvre and Jon Wood, Henry Moore Institute
Respondent: Teresa Gleadowe, Series Editor, 'Exhibition Histories', Afterall



Graham Ellard and Stephen Johnstone (Central Saint Martins/Goldsmiths): 'Neue Museen: Franco Albini and Caterina Marcenaro's Museum of Floating Objects'

Marin Sullivan (University of Michigan): 'Sculture nella cittá: Sculpture as (Group) Installation'

David Hulks (University of East Anglia): 'Before the Museum: Sculpture Exhibitions in Alternative Spaces, 1966-69'

Courtney Martin (Vanderbilt University): 'The People's Participation Pavilion: Documenta 5's national pavilion?'

Nathalie Zonnenberg (VU University, Amsterdam): 'Sculpture 'Off-Limits' at Sonsbeek 1971'

Antony Hudek (University College London): 'Talking Around (the) Sculpture: Artist Placement Group at the Hayward Gallery,1971'

Alex Potts (University of Michigan): 'Sculpture and not quite Sculpture - the framing of the sculptural in the 1983 'Sculpture Show'

Lucy Steeds (Central Saint Martins): ''Magiciens de la Terre': Provincialising Modernist Categories Such as Sculpture?'

Further information