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Announcement
November 18, 2020

Fall program 2020

University of Michigan Museum of Art

Jaume Plensa, Behind the Walls, 2018. Polyester resin and marble dust, 750 x 278 x 310 cm. Museum purchase made possible by the J. Ira and Nikki Harris Family. 2020/2.1. Photo: Patrick Young

Jaume Plensa, Behind the Walls, 2018. Polyester resin and marble dust, 750 x 278 x 310 cm. Installation view of Frieze Sculpture 2019. Courtesy the artist and Richard Gray Gallery. Photo:  Timothy Schenck.

Join the University of Michigan Museum of Art as we launch a series of exhibitions and programs on site and online that ask visitors to examine their perspectives and help challenge points of view long-held by the Museum and the museum field more broadly.

Whose stories make history? Are the facts presented in museums objective, or subjective? Who decides? And how do you know what you think you know? We’re exploring these questions and others by way of a powerful new work of public art, an intervention in our historic gallery of American art led by artist Titus Kaphar, and a collection-based experiment in queer curating accompanied by the first museum-led sex education class.

Jaume Plensa: Behind the Walls
A monumental work from Jaume Plensa finds new home at UMMA.

Jaume Plensa’s Behind the Walls, a monumental work depicting an elongated human head with hands covering both eyes makes a powerful statement about individual responsibility in today’s complicated world. After a blockbuster premier at Rockefeller Plaza as part of the 2018 Frieze Sculpture Festival in Manhattan, Behind the Walls has found a new home at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, where it will spur thought, conversation, and dialogue for students and community members for years to come.

“More than almost any other artist working today, Plensa’s work argues for art’s capacity to produce powerfully a sense of public place and expression—to jolt us into thought and heightened perception,” said UMMA Director Christina Olsen. “This new work is arriving at a critical time in our country and world, prompting deep reflection on deliberate ignorance and willful blindness.”

The work was acquired through a gift from J. Ira and Nicki Harris, long-time University of Michigan supporters.

Learn more about Behind the Walls

Unsettling Histories: Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism
Unsettling our history and practice.

In recent times, growing public awareness of the continued reverberations of the legacy of slavery and colonization has challenged museums to examine the uncomfortable histories contained in our collections, and challenged the public to probe the choices we make about those narratives. Choices about which artists are shown in our galleries, which works of art we place next to one another, what facts we decide are relevant to share about objects, and what—out of an infinite number of options—we choose not to say about them.

Organized as a response to the Museum’s recent acquisition of Titus Kaphar’s Flay (James Madison), Unsettling Histories: Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism sees the reinstallation of UMMA’s European and American art gallery to present a more complex and honest version of history.

Works of art in this exhibition were made at a time when the world came to be shaped by the ideologies of colonial expansion and Western domination. And yet, that history and the stories of those marginalized do not readily appear in the still lives and portraits on display. By grappling with what is visible and what remains hidden, we examine whose stories and subjective histories are taken as complete fact, and why.

In gallery: January 2021
Online preview

Oh, honey...
LGBTQ+ perspectives come into focus with Oh, honey… A queer reading of the collection, and kicking off the sex education class you always wish you’d had.

Ruminating on the role of the curator and its inherent bias, 2019 Stenn Curatorial Fellow Sean Kramer sifts through the UMMA collection with a couple of questions in mind: “How does my own point of view, as a queer man/graduate student/art historian at UM, frame my reading of UMMA’s permanent collection? What makes a work of art queer? And who decides?”

Featuring works of art by Andy Warhol, Lynn Davis, Chitra Ganesh, Gladys Nilsson, Kiki Smith, and many more, Oh, honey... will continue the theme of exploring the bias that exists in every collection of art while amplifying stories and perspectives most often omitted. Alongside the exhibition we’re launching a new sex education course on You Tube exploring LGBTQ+ identity, relationships, politics, whole body health, the future, and more.

In gallery: fall 2021
Online preview

Curriculum / Collection
Subjective meanings take center stage in Curriculum / Collection.

Curriculum / Collection displays selections of art curated specifically in relation to seven University of Michigan courses across a variety of disciplines—ranging from architecture and artificial intelligence to medicine and metaphysics. Collected for each course are objects that trouble and amplify ideas about the nature of reality, imagination, and vision in relation to politics, social action, science, mathematics and more.

Throughout their coursework, students will question how these objects aid or embody their topic of study, and cross-disciplinary discussions will encourage varied, and sometimes conflicting interpretations.

Throughout the fall and winter semesters, online content creators at UMMA are working with faculty and students in these courses to bring their experiences with the art to life for each other and virtual museum visitors. Expected content includes audio interviews and storytelling, a new TikTok gameshow proving art can be about anything, showcases of student projects and research related to the exhibition, interactive features using machine learning and the Museum's online collections database, and many more we haven’t even made up yet. A full list of the seven courses included in this first iteration of Curriculum / Collection is available as an online exhibition.

In gallery: October 2020–fall 2021
Online here

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