Knowledge Leads to a Deeper Experience of Art
More in-depth knowledge can enrich the experience of art – the more you know, the more you see. Being able to create and communicate new knowledge is therefore an integral part of the museum’s activities. Apart from collecting and preserving art, the Gothenburg Museum of Art also mediates its art in various ways. Research is one if these ways, and highlights aspects of art history, among other things.
If we study art from different perspectives, it can potentially speak to us in new ways and tell us something about both the time of its origination and the time in which we view it today. Not only the art, but also art museums have a history that is worth reflecting over. Our understanding of art is highly influenced by the contexts in which it is shown. Therefore it is important to study the framework and institutions surrounding art to understand how these historically have supported different views on art. This concerns not least art museums and their changing orientations regarding acquisitions, ideological aspects of how the works are displayed, architecture and education. With a critical perspective on museum practices we can achieve a greater awareness of the role of museums in culture and society, and about how selection principles and changing ideologies are involved in which artworks we meet in museums and how they are presented.
Research Projects at the Gothenburg Museum of Art
The Gothenburg Museum of Art carries out research in free-standing projects but also in connection with specific exhibitions, in order to gain deeper knowledge about the museum’s collection. The research projects involve both the museum’s researchers and external researchers from Sweden and abroad. A number of projects are interdisciplinary collaborations with researchers in art history, film, and general history. The specific orientations of the projects range from studies in art history and museology – a critical perspective on the history of the museum and its collection – to interdisciplinary projects that treat current themes in the field of visual culture – a broader definition of images than just art. Often these perspectives and approaches are united in one and the same project.
Skiascope is the name of the publication series published by the research department of the Gothenburg Museum of Art. It includes research projects with different themes concerning art and museums, often carried out by external researchers. Skiascope is bilingual, with parallel texts in both Swedish and English. The name comes from an instrument developed by the influential museum curator Benjamin Ives Gilman in the beginning of the 20th century to allow the visitor to focus on individual artworks in the museum’s over-large galleries, where the artworks were displayed too close together. Thus, the guiding principle of the publication series is focus. It has the same aim as Gilman’s instrument: to provide a framework in order to underline and intensify the study of issues that we consider to be important. It could be individual works, oeuvres or eras.
The first issue of Skiascope includes an investigation of hanging and exhibition policy history under the title Permanent Hangings – Temporary Exhibitions (2009). Two of the questions investigated is: How has art been displayed in museums throughout the ages, and how do different hanging practices reflect different conceptions about art? Hanging is an area that plays a major role in our understanding of art. Despite this fact, there is a lack of research in the area and therefore this investigation is a pioneering effort in Sweden.
Issues 2 and 3 of Skiascope discuss art in Gothenburg 1960–2000 from a variety of perspectives, dealing with avant-gardism, the local painterly tradition, feminism, postmodernism and relational aesthetics, just to mention a few themes. A couple of projects focused on current issues in museology: Skiascope 4 on art education, Skiascope 5 on art museum collections and Skiascope 7 on art museum architecture.
The exhibition and research project A Painted History: Swedish History Painting during the Nineteenth Century discussed questions about the visual rhetoric of images depicting history, in 19th century painting as well as in 20th century war photography and film. The project resulted in an exhibition and an exhibition catalogue. At the same time, the 6th issue of Skiascope, with the theme Blond and Blue-Eyed: Whiteness, Swedishness and Visual Culture contained a study of how conceptions of Swedishness have been created and communicated in visual culture, from Carl Larsson’s watercolours to the TV-series Hammarkullen.
In Unbounded: The Eighteenth Century Mirrored by the Present, an exhibition and research project that is published in Skiascope 8, contemporary visual artworks were counter-posed with creative expressions from the 18th century in a productive way, with examples from art as well as fashion and crafts. The project focused on the renegotiation of a number of boundaries during the 18th century as well as today, for example in regard to gender roles and the view on nature.
Access the Results of Research
The research at the Gothenburg Museum of Art is aimed at both the general public and the scientific community. The research results are made accessible in publications, exhibitions, conferences, lectures and here on the website. The publication series Skiascope regularly publishes research on themes connected to the museum world, art history and the Gothenburg art scene. All the publications in the series are accessible and can be downloaded as pdf-files on our website. Apart from Skiascope, the research department also participates in the production of research-based catalogues and books connected to the museum’s collection or temporary exhibitions.
The museum’s annual report, which also can be downloaded from the website, documents the museum’s activities in order to provide factual support for research. The basic research is made accessible in the web catalogue Search the Collection, where visitors can search for artists and artworks. Apart from images of works in the collection and basic facts, here you will also find texts, exhibition histories and references in the literature for many works.
The research department was established in 2008 with the three-year financial support of the Sten A Olsson Foundation for Research and Culture. The aim was to build up a dynamic research centre in collaboration with the surrounding research community, to carry out research on and around the museum’s collection. Among other things, the goal is to investigate and examine the exhibition policy in in-depth studies with critical perspectives. After the termination of the three-year project, the research department at the Gothenburg Museum of Art has been made permanent.
If you have questions about research, contact Head of Research Kristoffer Arvidsson
Telephone: +46(0)31-368 36 29
Caption: Erró, Untitled (partly shown), 1993, The Gothenburg Museum of Art
See the full version here