2019-03-01 Western Art Collector

(Martin Jones) #1

Each Month We Ask Leading Museum

Curators About What’s Going On In Their World.

Curating the West

What event (gallery show,
museum exhibit, etc.) in the
next few months are you
looking forward to, and why?
The North Building of the
Denver Art Museum is currently
undergoing a significant
renovation project that will
enhance the Gio Ponti-designed
building’s galleries. In preparation
for the reinstallation of the Petrie
Institute of Western American Art’s
collection, I am looking forward
to visiting a number of institutions
around the country to study
how they are interpreting their
historic American collections for

contemporary audiences. There
are lively conversations happening
in the curatorial world about how
we can make historic collections
more accessible, more relevant
to now, and more diverse. It is an
exciting and challenging time to
be part of a permanent collection
reinstallation, and I am looking
forward to learning from the
dynamic exhibitions and programs
offered by my peers.
What are you reading?
I am reading Richard V.
Francaviglia’s Go East, Young Man:
Imagining the American West as

the Orient (2011) and Emily C.
Burns’ Transnational Frontiers:
The American West in France
(2018). The former considers how
aspects of the Old (and ancient)
World were applied to the West,
while the latter considers the West
imbedded among the Francophone
Old World around the turn of the
20 th century. Both explode the
notion that the American West was
ever-neatly contained or produced
within a cultural vacuum, even if
it has sometimes been packaged
that way.
Interesting exhibit, gallery
opening or work of art
you’ve seen recently.
If I may expand this to include
“most interesting presentation on a
work of art and exhibition,” I would
mention the presentation curator
Joanna Gilmour from Australia’s
National Portrait Gallery gave
at the Petrie Institute of Western
American Art’s recent annual

symposium. Joanna focused on
the exhibition and interpretation of
19 th century portraits of Aboriginal
men and women and white settler
families, which present the dual
challenge of considering not only
a colonial history but also a penal
colony past. Her desire to honor
sitters by providing them voice and
space resonated deeply with me
as I consider similar challenges
regarding 19th century art of the
American West.
What is your dream
exhibit to curate? Or see
someone else curate?
Inspired by the DAM’s current
exhibition Dior: From Paris to
the World, I would love to see a
major fashion and art exhibition
on the history and influence
of Western wear. It could start
with the arrival of the Spanish
500 years ago and consider the
gauchos and llaneros of South
America and Mexican vaqueros.
Nineteenth-century ranch hands
and performance cowgirls could
bridge the gap into the 20th
century, during which time waves
of Western fashion made it into
Hollywood and haute couture.
It would be a beautiful show
that could reveal the close links
between fashion, art and utility,
as well as between clothing and
socio-cultural context.

Jennifer R. Henneman
Associate Curator, Petrie Institute of
Western American Art
Denver Art Museum
Denver, CO
(720) 865-5000

View of the North Building from
welcome center lower level,
November 2018. Photo courtesy
Denver Art Museum.

Buildout of the new welcome center structure near the North Building, November 2018.
Photo courtesy Denver Art Museum.

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