Curator Kris Ercums on Spencer Art Museum’s New ‘Debut’ Exhibition | New

The Spencer Museum of Art reopened its galleries this month to showcase 120 previously unseen works of art.

The new exhibit, titled “Debut”, features previously unseen works, but also contains more familiar works of art used for teaching. Artwork in the exhibition comes from all over the world and by various artists, said curator Kris Ercums.

Some of the themes include femininity, global currents, landscapes, and fresh fruit and cut flowers, Ercums said. Each section occupies one or two walls of the exhibition.

Ercums set up the exhibit and researched some of the new works of art. His role as curator was to select the works of art to display, group them into different sections, and then research the works of art to create labels for people who visit the museum.

Ercums designed the entire ground floor gallery and these works will be on display throughout the year, he said. The “Debut” exhibition will be the only exhibition on display at the moment due to the renovation of the fourth floor, where a study center is being built.

“This will be another resource for students to learn more about the collection and to research it,” Ercums said.

Helped by graduate assistants, Ercums said they created didactic tags of around 50-75 words for each piece of art, so that the audience can understand what they are viewing. One of the graduate student interns, Sara Johnson, from Sheridan, Wyoming, who is also in the MA in Museum Studies, has created labels for seven works of art.

“As ‘Debut’ features a ton of artwork that has never been exhibited before, a lot of it has never had labels written about it before,” Johnson said.

Research on the artwork begins with information about the artist, such as his name and origin, Ercums said. Then the research would move on to more about the artwork itself, including how and when it was made.

A recent addition to the team of graduate assistants, Vidhita Raina, a major in Japanese art history from Delhi, India, led the exhibition’s open day. A lot of things go into putting together an exhibition like this, Raina said.

“It takes a team effort,” Raina said. “There is a lot of work that the interns did and, of course, Kris as curator of the exhibition. I think one of the most interesting things about the exhibition is how much we’ve done to show work that we haven’t seen for many decades.

There were a few challenges during the selection process, Ercums said. The museum has more artwork than can be shown, so Ercums had to be decisive and intentional with exactly what needed to be displayed.

“After researching works that had never been exhibited before, I had a huge list,” Ercums said. “So, in trying to tidy this up, I just used very classic historical art categories like fixed light, portrait, and landscape. It became a means for me to organize and create works that relate to each other. ”

Ercums then took into account the quality of the work and tried to match the pieces according to their interesting relationships, he said. The end result was 14 walls filled with works of art.

“I want people to walk away with new people, new favorites,” Ercums said. “It’s like a maze of new nuggets of enlightenment, so it’s really about discovering and using your eye to make insightful observations.”


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