With the advent of pop culture and social media, people aren’t finding their ways to museums, unless they are visiting a new country or on a school field trip. However, there is a new trend in museum curation that is drawing crowds. It is transhistorical curation. It is the combining of historical references (or artwork) and contemporary art.
The blending of the old and new isn’t a radical idea. However, the way it is done is turning heads. Artworks and artifacts as well as art historical and cultural contexts shown together have become very popular. For example, Frans Hals’s “Banquet of the Officers of the Calivermen Civic Guard” (1627) is hung next to Anton Henning’s “Interior No. 559” (2018) at the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, Netherlands. This museum, along with the M-Museum, has shifted its strategy to become more transhistorical with more combination exhibits this year. Or, classic pieces have been “edited” with contemporary references to generate new dialogue and insights. “The Wave” by William Adolphe Bouguereau was edited by Chris Rellas. Rellas painted a Chanel Canvas Graffiti backpack on the woman in the painting. The editing of these paintings is not simply to change them, but to show us how we live and what we value.
Transhistorical curation has many benefits. It will give new life to masterpieces by editing them and/or by juxtaposing two period pieces. Old masters can become new again, while still retaining the characteristics that made them famous. And finally, emerging themes in our culture can be highlighted for discussion. The pairing of pieces that have a stark contrast, such as the mask of Anna Pavlova and Untitled sculpture in the “Like Life” exhibit at the Met Breuer, illustrates a theme of self-reflection and the human body that has many interpretations.
Transhistorical curation has been done before, but now it is done in a meaningful manner. This trend in curation provides unique perspectives and is entertaining. The museums that feature this trend will benefit from the new visitors and press. They will create a new appreciation of art, especially ones that have shifted to a transhistorical strategy. I am excited to see what the new trend will be next year and how the public will react to it!