September 6, 2012

Global Flows

Tufts University Art Gallery
Unknown artist, Lewis O 116 Armenian Gospels, c. 1690–1700, illuminated manuscript, 22 x 18 x 7 cm. John Frederick Lewis Collection, Rare Book Department, The Free Library of Philadelphia.

The Tufts University Art Gallery is proud to present Global Flows, an exhibition combining two-dozen historical and contemporary art works, artifacts, rare books, architectural models and animations selected by seven faculty members from the Tufts Department of Art History. The exhibition is co-curated by Amy Ingrid Schlegel, Ph.D. (Director, Tufts University Art Gallery) and Lillian Slezak (M.A. Art History, 2013) and will be on view from September 6 through November 18, 2012. A public opening reception will take place on Tuesday, September 11, from 5:30 to 8pm, with an introduction to the exhibition at 6:30pm.

From the rare and the singular, to the multiple and the mass-produced, to the digital and the virtual, works of art have multiple stories to tell—about their making, their authors, their audiences, their original context, their shifting historical contexts, and their apparent, hidden, and lost meanings. Global Flows presents a diverse array of works of art that spans a thousand years and canvasses the terrain of visual culture studied today by art historians and their students. Building on a 2010 Tufts Art History Department symposium, “Disputing the Global,” the visual works in this exhibition were selected by seven Tufts faculty members representing the fields of African art, Asian art, Medieval Islamic art, Italian Renaissance art, contemporary art, architecture, and Armenian art. The aggregate—gathered from museums, libraries, and artists—is displayed in an evocative environment designed by the Tufts University Art Gallery suggestive of a global sphere of confluences.

Visitors are invited to become “explorers” in encountering Global Flows. There is no prescribed route or linear narrative through the exhibition. Several interpretative approaches are offered, however, to enable visitors to play an active role in curating the exhibition, in real time, while experiencing it: descriptive object labels; brief audio commentaries by faculty experts; and QR codes that transport you to those commentaries as texts viewable on a smartphone. Visitors may also use the poster-like guide to choose from three suggested “itineraries”—Circulating, Boundary Crossing, and Flattening—to make connections between and among works that initially may appear to have nothing in common. Or, one may probe these themes by consulting an interactive conceptual map on an iPad inside the gallery or later through a dedicated website ( Of course, visitors may forge their own path through the exhibition. By eschewing conventional groupings, the exhibit design intentionally questions some of the problematic polarities that characterize the study of art history and museological cataloging and display (such as western/nonwestern, past/present, the classical/the contemporary, and tradition/innovation).

Global Flows aims to create a teaching platform for anyone engaged with object-based learning and with research and pedagogical interrogations of “the global.”  By participating in this exhibition, you will make connections, devise juxtapositions, determine meaningful sequences, and create new narratives, and in doing so you will become familiar with the challenges faced by art historians, art museum curators, and special collections librarians alike.




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