Art collections are vulnerable to changes in fashion and taste. These changes pose significant challenges for collections of historical art – how do we use, advocate for, display works of art that are no longer ‘in fashion’? Portraits of historical figures are particularly problematic, as these are often made according to a very specific, very restricted set of aesthetics that intend to communicate a focussed set of cultural ideals and beliefs that often are not relevant or interesting to a later generation of viewers. But as curators, our task is to make history, and objects, relevant to our audience. Using the University of Toronto collection (see below) you will consider ways of using portraits to communicate about issues relevant to today’s student audience..
In this course, you will have an opportunity to select, research and communicate about a portrait in the University of Toronto Collection created before 1950CE. These portraits are on display in the Gerstein Library, and we will take a class field trip to look at the portraits, and their current display context. Your project will take part in the form of a series of exercises, including Object selection, Annotated Bibliography, In-class Research Presentation and podcast, an Article/Podcast/Website analysis and an Object “Paper” Poster Presentation. Throughout this set of assignments, you will be investigating, questioning and experimenting with different methods of communicating about your artwork. Your final Object “Paper” will take the form of a Research Poster. Students will be encouraged to submit their research projects to the UTSC Library Research Poster competition.
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