Cook THE books

A Recipe for Exhibitions

Spaces (variable)
Institutions (optional; at some altitudes, not recommended)

Start with art and let it lead you to its makers: propose questions that concern you and that you care about, unanswerable questions that are worth investigating to find ways of thinking about them

Be a partner to explore—widely and fully and openly—these questions with artists who are also thinking about them and for whom thinking about these questions can move their work

Imagine a realm of opportunities for artists to make art and for their art to communicate and have an impact on others (even if the means to bring them about don’t exist yet); think about what is needed and what could happen, then build find ways to make that happen

Venture ideas about what art can look like, what it can mean, what it can do; the artist will use this or discard it, but these ideas will enter into the dialogue and fuel the process as you contribute to their product: art

Listen to artists as they venture ideas that reflect back on your exhibition-making practice; you can use or discard them, but the interaction with artists will fuel your process and change your product: the exhibition

Listen to audiences in the process of making the exhibition and then remember to report back to them: to make the exhibition a mode of communication

Locate the reason why you are doing an exhibition; what it contains and what it looks like will follow.  Your aims can be multiple but locate the one that connects you to art beyond the single exhibition and that can thread through a lifetime of work

Trust that art will make things happen about which you will never know, be able to track, evaluate, quantify, or write, but that may return to you in another form, in your own work, in the work of others, in art, and in life.

© Mary Jane Jacob “A Recipe for Exhibitions,” in Words of Wisdom: A Curator’s Vade Mecum on Contemporary Art (New York: Independent Curators International, 2001)


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