Currating Exhibitions for Artist Estates
After an artist dies, how do you come up with an exhibition for that artist? In the past their annual exhibition was always their new works for that year and what the artist had put together. How do you curate an exhibition for a deceased artist?
The answer depends on how recently the artist has passed. Typically, the initial memorial exhibition will include works that span the artist's entire professional career in honor of the artist and to exhibit every stage of development in the artist’s path. Following the initial memorial exhibition, we will draw from the body of work to curate themed exhibitions. However, there are always hidden surprises when an artist passes with works that have never been exhibited during the artist's life.
Immediately after an artist passes, we have the opportunity to go through every work in the studio. In this process, we typically discover works the artist never showed us in previous visits. This happens for various reasons: perhaps the artist was unsure of a direction he was taking; the artist did not believe patrons would take certain works; the works were very early in the artist’s career; or some works become so personal to the artist they just aren’t available for sale during the artist’s life. In the memorial exhibition, we will include these works that have never actually been seen before by patrons. This is surprising and exciting to us and the patrons.
Following that initial memorial exhibition, the exhibitions will take on a theme based on subject matter, medium, or phase within an artist’s career. There may not be enough work for annual exhibitions for deceased artists. In which case these exhibitions will happen once every few years. These themed exhibitions are more in line with what you would see at a museum and many that we curate for our Gallery do travel to museums as loaned exhibitions.
Some examples of themed exhibitions for deceased artists we have curated include "Will Barnet: Paintings and prints from the 1940s", "Adolf Dehn: People and Places", and "Milton Avery: 30 Year Retrospective of Nudes". These are just three of the many exhibitions William Meek has curated for our gallery which we have then loaned to museums across the nation.
This past September, when visiting two estates of artists, we had the opportunity once again to select interesting themes from the bodies of works. In 2023, we are planning: "Richard Segalman: Silhouettes" and "Herman Maril: In the Studio".