Last summer, I had the fortune of working in the Middlebury College Museum of Art as a full-time curatorial intern, alongside the Chief Curator of the Museum, Emmie Donadio. During my time at the museum, my main project was to help Emmie assemble two upcoming exhibitions, one on a number of Andy Warhol prints and the second on street artists. Despite not having had a lot of exposure to contemporary art prior to last year, or perhaps because of it, working on these two exhibitions was an exciting and rewarding task that allowed me to see the nitty-gritty that goes on behind the scenes in a museum setting.
Now, more than five months later, both these exhibitions are on display at the College Museum. The first, containing 10 Andy Warhol prints gifted to the College by the artist’s foundation last spring, opened in the first week of January. Ranging in subject matter from his famed Campbell’s Soup Can to a flamboyantly coloured Mao to Queen Ntombi of Swaziland, this eclectic collection of uneditioned proofs are now a part of the College’s permanent collection. As an artist, Warhol is one of the most renowned household names in America, with one of the most prolific oeuvres of any artist in the 20th century. As such, doing research on Warhol was like staring into a bottomless pit of unanswerable questions. Scholars and commentators have studied and written on just about every facet of Warhol’s life and his art. Synthesizing all that information was one of the most challenging experiences of my summer. In the end, I distilled the information I researched into short and sweet wall labels, which tell viewers the significance of each work. Since the Warhol Foundation donated countless gifts to many educational institutions in recent years, 2015 is an especially busy year for Warhol exhibitions around the country.
The second exhibition that I worked on was “Outside In: Art from the Street”, mostly in its preliminary research. The exhibition, which takes up most of the upper floor of the museum, contains an incredible array of contemporary urban artists from around the world, including some of the biggest names in street and graffiti art today: Banksy, JR, Swoon, and Bäst. Nevertheless, these are street artists, and prints can only tell you so much about their talent and creativity. As such, the museum hired British street artist Ben Eine, whose work British Prime Minister Cameron gifted to President Obama in 2011 during a visit to the U.S., to paint a wall for the exhibition. To bring in an even more authentic taste of the street, a co-curator of the exhibition even went down to New York City to bring back the remains of an actual graffiti wall from the studio of the artist-team Faile.
With some of the biggest names of contemporary art right here on campus, it is indeed high time for art here at Middlebury. If you find yourself around town, be sure to check out both these exhibitions, which will be on view until Sunday, April 19.