Curators and visitors share the spotlight as organizers of the new Walker Art Center
exhibition 50/50: Audience and Experts Curate the Paper Collection on view now through July 17, 2011. Invited to view 183 images of art from the Walkers expansive collection of works on paper, the public cast nearly 250,000 votes indicating whether the artworks should definitely or maybe not be included in the exhibition.
Meanwhile, chief curator Darsie Alexander was considering artists whose work represents important art historical moments captured by the Walker collection as well as some recent purchases that foreshadow areas of possible growth. I was interested in enabling a public voice in this exhibition, says Alexander, taking advantage of the natural impulse people have when encountering art to form an opinion.
Featuring some 100 works, 50/50 presents curation as a joint affair. Drawn from a trove of objects made with pencil, marker, pen and ink as well as watercolor and gouache, the final selections include highlights of post-1960s art and even earlier, from conceptual works to narrative figuration. The shared exchange sparks a range of questions about the dynamics between audience and expert, or between curatorial practice and socalled mass taste. It also touches on a broader contrast between the act of making aesthetic judgments in an online context and the experience of looking at and thinking about art up close, without time constraints.
The top five artists who received the most public votes are Fiona Banner (Break Point, 1998), Edgar Arceneaux (House Upside Down, 2000), Chuck Close (Self-Portrait, 2000), Frank Big Bear (Chemical Man in a Toxic World, 19891990), and Charles Sheeler (Buildings at Lebanon, 1949). Other artists selected by the public include David Hockney, Robert Longo, Julie Mehretu, and Elizabeth Peyton.