Group photo of the Andrew W. Mellon Summer Academy in the Study Center for Photography and Works on Paper at LACMA

Students Co-Curate “Pop-Up” Exhibition at LACMA

July 5, 2016
Hilary Walter, Coordinator of Curatorial Fellowships

LACMA recently hosted its third Andrew W. Mellon Summer Academy, a one-week, behind-the-scenes introduction to the curatorial process in a large art museum. The project is a component of the Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program, generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

LACMA’s 2016 Andrew W. Mellon Summer Academy offered 14 students the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of a curator’s responsibilities within a large art museum and meet with a wide range of staff members who regularly collaborate with curators on museum projects. During the immersive program, the students co-curated an exhibition of photographs from LACMA’s Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection. After meeting with collection managers and conservators to discuss the condition of the artworks, they were invited to study the selected photographs directly. The resulting exhibition, On the Threshold of Reality: Selections from LACMA’s Permanent Collection, examined photography’s move from representation toward abstraction and self-sufficiency, while grouping the selected artworks around three sub-themes: de-contextualization, manipulation, and perspective. In this role, the students were able to apply their art historical knowledge to the exhibition’s organization and write exhibition-related texts. The exhibition was installed on the final day of the program in LACMA’s Study Center for Photography and Works on Paper and the students presented their show to Michael Govan, LACMA’s CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, family members of Marjorie and Leonard Vernon, LACMA staff, and their own family and friends. 

Students studying artwork with Sarah Newby, collections administrator of works on paper

The Summer Academy students also spent time at another Los Angeles museum, visited with an artist at his studio, and met an art collector as part of an off-site field trip. After a tour of LACMA’s Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium led by Britt Salvesen, curator and head of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department and the Prints and Drawings department, the students toured the companion exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum with Paul Martineau, associate curator in the department of photographs. This allowed the students to experience a comprehensive view of Mapplethorpe’s archive, which was jointly acquired by the two institutions. The group then met with Daniel Joseph Martinez at his Leimert Park studio and learned about his long and medium-rich career. Lastly, Cheech Marin invited the students into his home to explore his Chicano art collection. An entertainer who is well known for his work in film, television, and comedy, Marin has been acquiring art since 1988, and has amassed a renowned collection of Chicano art.

Students touring Robert Mapplethorpe exhibitions

The Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program, established in 2013, provides specialized training in the curatorial field to students committed to fostering pluralistic art museums. Through the program, undergraduate students learn directly from art museum curators and staff, gaining first-hand insight into the multi-faceted role of a curator, the collaborative nature of curatorial work, and the numerous career paths possible in an arts organization. Next, LACMA will select two Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellows from the promising students in the Summer Academy for two-year fellowships. Learn more about our current Fellows, and read about the experiences of the first class of Fellows. 


1 comment
Janan Jem says:
July 11, 2016 at 11:22 am
This "Pop-up" idea and this space at the Photo Study Center is so perfectly aligned to make such an experience as the Mellon Curatorial Summer Academy come to life!