The virtual exhibition complements the other elements of coursework. It is intended to assess your response to the full range of material suggested by the Special Option teaching, in a way more visual (and/or sensory) than the research-essay format permits. It aims to enable you to show how you use the selection, arrangement, and juxtaposition of objects to present an argument related to your chosen ‘theme’ and/or to find new ways of looking at the objects. Responses to the assignment will not only differ from option to option, but from student to student; there is no ‘right’ way of completing this project, except as explained below and in the Grade Descriptors (available here) guiding its assessment. If you are still wondering, do ask your option tutor.
Option tutors will set two or three possible exhibition themes at the start of the academic year. These will be broad: ‘Invention’, ‘Classical Revival’, ‘War and Peace’, e.g. Each student chooses and devises a specific exhibition concept and title that addresses the theme. Option tutors approve these choices after the submission of the second assessed essay. The themes will relate to the ground covered in the taught part of the MA special option, so you should have the exhibition in mind during that part of the course. However, the work will be carried out mainly after submission of the second essay. After approval of the topic, you will receive one supervision session to provide personal guidance on researching and composing the virtual exhibition, although tutors will not read drafts.
This assignment comprises a series of texts relating to a fictional exhibition. It is not intended to assess ‘real’ curatorial skills, so it is not necessary to be constrained by practicalities like the real-life availability of works of art for loan, for example. In part, it is intended to assess your ability to communicate in ways appropriate to different audiences. You select no more than 30 works of art, or other relevant exhibits, with which to explore visually the theme of the exhibition (a single exhibit might include a number of different objects if clearly related — e.g. fragments of a particular work, or multiple examples of the same object-type). Exhibits need not be works that could be confined to a conventional gallery space. They might include film or video, virtual displays or internet art, and might be large or spatially dispersed (buildings). The exhibition might be conceived as a traditional exhibition in a museum, gallery, or significant space; as a tour or ‘exhibition without walls’ (published or online); this is, it might occupy spaces real, imagined or virtual. The point is to address the works and their collective value for exploring the theme.
The submission must include the following elements (and see also the Grade Descriptors):
1. Exhibition proposal: including a rationale for the exhibition concept, i.e. how the subject has been addressed, why the works have been chosen, how the concept relates to specific art-historical issues and/or wider topical concerns (as well as to the chosen theme). The proposal might also address questions like the exhibition’s relationship to a permanent collection, or to previous exhibitions. It must consider (perhaps with the help of an illustration) the exhibition space, which as noted above might be actual or imaginary, in relation to the arrangement of objects (buildings, films, etc.) and to the visitor’s experience. This section normally includes footnotes (2,000 words max., excluding footnotes);
2. List of exhibits: including, where appropriate, dimensions, materials, lenders, etc. (outside of the word count). Where possible you should include images of your exhibits that are quarter-page sized or larger, depending on how much detail it is necessary to see;
3. List of text panels and sample text panel: these are interpretative panels of the kind typically used to structure exhibitions; the sample should be max. 300 words;
4. Sample exhibition label for a single exhibit: max. 200 words;
5. Sample catalogue entry for an individual exhibit: max. 500 words, excluding footnotes. Like the proposal (but unlike the other elements) this section normally includes footnotes.
6. Bibliography (outside of the word count)
ASSESSING THE VIRTUAL EXHIBITION
(and see also the Grade Descriptors)
Examiners will consider the virtual exhibition submissions according to the following criteria:
- adherence to the prescribed structure for the submission, with all six elements presented to the standard expected of an MA History of Art candidate
- a rationale for the exhibition that is clearly explained in relation to specific art-historical issues and/or topical concerns, as well as the chosen theme
- a selection of objects chosen in accordance with the exhibition’s stated rationale: to advance the visitor’s understanding of its theme, for example, or to provide stimulating juxtapositions from which s/he can draw inferences
- a clear sense of the exhibition’s intended audience(s), one sustained not just by the exhibition proposal, but by the wording of the sample text panel, exhibition label, and catalogue entry