1st Edition

Interpreting Art in Museums and Galleries

By Christopher Whitehead Copyright 2012
    216 Pages
    by Routledge

    216 Pages
    by Routledge

    In this pioneering book, Christopher Whitehead provides an overview and critique of art interpretation practices in museums and galleries. Covering the philosophy and sociology of art, traditions in art history and art display, the psychology of the aesthetic experience and ideas about learning and communication, Whitehead advances major theoretical frameworks for understanding interpretation from curators’ and visitors’ perspectives. Although not a manual, the book is deeply practical. It presents extensively researched European and North American case studies involving interviews with professionals engaged in significant cutting-edge interpretation projects. Finally, it sets out the ethical and political responsibilities of institutions and professionals engaged in art interpretation.

    Exploring the theoretical and practical dimensions of art interpretation in accessible language, this book covers:

    • The construction of art by museums and galleries, in the form of collections, displays, exhibition and discourse;
    • The historical and political dimensions of art interpretation;
    • The functioning of narrative, categories and chronologies in art displays;
    • Practices, discourses and problems surrounding the interpretation of historical and contemporary art;
    • Visitor experiences and questions of authorship and accessibility;
    • The role of exhibition texts, new interpretive technologies and live interpretation in art museum and gallery contexts.

    Thoroughly researched with immediately practical applications, Interpreting Art in Museums and Galleries will inform the practices of art curators and those studying the subject.

    List of figures  Preface  Part I: Introductory mappings  1. What is art interpretation? Why interpret art?  2. The cultural cartography of the museum  3. Matters of interpretation: materiality, authority, chronology  Part II: Interpretive practice today  4. Interpretive frames: historical figurative art  5. Interpretive frames: modern, contemporary and non-figurative art  6. Case studies: institutional approaches to historical art  7. Case studies: institutional approaches to contemporary art  8. Interpretive futures  References


    Chris Whitehead teaches Museum, Gallery and Heritage Studies and runs the Art Museum and Gallery Studies postgraduate programme at the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, Newcastle University, UK. He has substantial experience of developing interpretive resources in museums and galleries and is the author of numerous books and articles in the field of museum studies.