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Friday, June 1 • 4:00pm - 4:30pm
(Material Questions) Connecting the dots: visitor interaction in contemporary art collections

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Contemporary artworks are often comprised of unconventional materials, concepts, and formats. Together with the fact that the requisite display often precludes the use of platforms or vitrines, the ability to differentiate between the boundaries of what comprises the artwork and the degree of interactivity can become challenging to the museum’s visitors. In 2017, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden hosted the exhibition ‘Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors’, putting on display an oeuvre characterized by a mix of brightly colored wall paintings, soft sculptures on platforms, inflatable artworks suspended from the ceiling or sitting directly on the floor, and immersive mirror rooms for visitors to enter. This exhibition exemplified the inconsistencies of allowable interaction, and also posed a unique opportunity of studying the artworks in a range of settings across the venues. This show, therefore, became the focal point of an expansive and ongoing exploration into visitor interaction in contemporary art collections. The methodology of this research has been highly collaborative in nature. Over the course of the exhibition, human behavior in the galleries was observed and discussed on many levels throughout the institution and included a wide range of departments. Collection Management, Conservation, Visitor Services, Security, Communications, and Exhibits all came to the table with a range of perspectives and experiences that guided the overall approach and development of systems during the exhibition. Much was learned through these discussions with the added benefits of closer interdepartmental relationships and a broader view across the Museum of the issues regarding visitor interaction and the intersection of staff roles. The strategies that were adopted during these discussions have also been applied to future exhibitions that pose similar challenges. Taking advantage of the full run of the exhibition, HMSG fellow Anouk Verbeek is following the exhibition 'Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors' as it travels to five other venues in North America. This continuation of her initial research includes monitoring the considerations of gallery layout, visitor flow, signage, staff involvement, and free versus paid admission. Observing the same artworks in a different setting and environment and with different demographics of visitorship will give insight into both overlapping and differing issues regarding visitor interaction. By communicating with colleagues at all venues, as well as other museums worldwide, and learning from each other’s mistakes and successes, we will hopefully get closer to creating a clear image of the issues–and possible solutions–posed by visitor interaction in contemporary art collections.

avatar for Anouk Verbeek

Anouk Verbeek

Postgraduate fellow in contemporary art conservation, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Anouk Verbeek is a contemporary art conservator, currently working as a fellow at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Over the years, she has carried out treatments on a broad range of objects, the focal point being plastics. She has conducted research into... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 4:00pm - 4:30pm MDT
Texas Ballroom A Marriott Marquis Houston