Curious Lessons in the Museum

The Pedagogic Potential of Artists' Interventions

Curious Lessons in the Museum
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  • Claire Robins, UCL Institute of Education, UK
  • Amongst recent contemporary art and museological publications, there have been relatively few which direct attention to the distinct contributions that twentieth and twenty-first century artists have made to gallery and museum interpretation practices. There are fewer still that recognise the pedagogic potential of interventionist artworks in galleries and museums. This book fills that gap and demonstrates how artists have been making curious but, none-the-less, useful contributions to museum education and curation for some time.

    Claire Robins investigates in depth the phenomenon of artists' interventions in museums and examines their pedagogic implications. She also brings to light and seeks to resolve many of the contradictions surrounding artists' interventions, where on the one hand contemporary artists have been accused of alienating audiences and, on the other, appear to have played a significant role in orchestrating positive developments to the way that learning is defined and configured in museums. She examines the disruptive and parodic strategies that artists have employed, and argues for that they can be understood as part of a move to re-establish the museum as a discursive forum. This valuable book will be essential reading for students and scholars of museum studies, as well as art and cultural studies.
  • Contents: Introduction; Part I Artists, Museums and Education in Historical Context: Shifting priorities for learning in the museum; Historical tracings of artists’ interventions in the early 20th century; Historical tracings of artists’ interventions in the mid-20th century. Part II Parody and Irony in the Museum: Humour, irony and parody in artists' interventions; Jokers, tricksters and the parafictional; An Elite Experience for Everyone: a case study intervention at the William Morris Gallery, London. Part III Contemporary Museums and the Role of Artists’ Interventions: The role of artists’ interventions in opening up micro, counter and affective narratives in museum interpretation; Artists’ interventions and the reflexive museum: addressing difference; The affable interventionists; Bibliography; Index.
  • About the Author: Claire Robins is a senior lecturer in Art, Design and Museology at the UCL Institute of Education, University College London,UK.
  • Reviews: ‘In this engaging and thought-provoking work, the author enlivens the recent history of pedagogically motivated artists’ interventions and offers significant insights into the “curious lessons” they provide to museum and gallery learning departments.’
    Julie Sheldon, Liverpool John Moores University, UK

    ‘With deft scholarly touch, Robins traces the pedagogic thread of artists' interventions woven throughout the history of museum collections both private and public, from the historical to the contemporary. In so doing, she reveals the subtle and witty complexity and broad educational agency of these interventions, making the book essential reading for museum scholars, students and professionals today.’
    Helen Charman, Design Museum London, UK

    ‘In this historical overview of museum pedagogy, Claire Robins points out that many recent artistic interventions seek to tap the pre-Enlightenment wonder of the institution. She analyzes compelling instances from Andy Warhol to Fred Wilson and Jeremy Deller, as well as her own performance at the William Morris Gallery, England. She argues for “artists’ interventions” as an increasingly more accurate term than the fashionable “institutional critique,” for the wide-ranging, ever growing roster of contemporary artist/ trickster “legitimated transgressions” embraced by museums to freshen their image. Highly recommended for all parties in this complex interplay.’
    Lewis Kachur, Kean University,USA and author of Displaying the Marvelous: Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dali and Surrealist Exhibition Installations

    ‘… the content is well-researched, insightful and page-turning, and this work has the potential to stimulate further research and constructive dialogue in the field. This publication is appropriate for students and professionals of museum studies, while at the same time art historians, and even artists, would find the content of this book equally fascinating.’
    'Curious Lessons is a thoroughly researched, well-written, detailed analysis of the development of artists’ interventions in museum spaces.'
    Museum & Society

    'Robins has produced an interesting and thought-provoking contribution to the literature on artistic interventions that is worthy of the attention of students, researchers and teachers of visual sociology and ethnography as well as art history and museum studies.'
    Visual Studies