Exhibition catalogues are essential resources that allow visitors to connect with artwork in a meaningful way. They provide an in-depth look at the art on display, contextualize it within the artist’s oeuvre and cultural history, and offer an opportunity for further engagement with the artworks even after the exhibition ends.
This article explores how exhibition catalogues help visitors get a better understanding of artists and their works, using specific examples from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s publications, including Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation, Monet: Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and Hokusai Inspiration and Influence.
Connecting with Artwork
Exhibition catalogues can deepen visitors’ understanding of the artwork that is on display by offering a wealth of information, including essays, interviews, and images. They provide a comprehensive view of the artwork and help visitors interpret the artwork’s themes, styles, and techniques.
For example, the Monet: Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston Exhibition Catalogue reproduces all thirty-five oil paintings by Monet in the MFA’s permanent collection, representing nearly the full span of Monet’s long career. The book’s introductory essay presents a brief account of his acclaim in Boston during his lifetime, and entries for the paintings provide an overview of his life and work.
This in-depth exploration of Monet’s work allows visitors to connect with the artist’s vision, see the world through his eyes, and understand the context of his art.
Exhibition catalogues can also provide context for the artworks on display, helping visitors understand the cultural, historical, and artistic background that influenced the artist.
The Hokusai Inspiration and Influence exhibition catalogue, for example, looks at Hokusai from the viewpoint of fellow artists who incorporated lessons learned from him into their own work, including Hokusai’s own students, his contemporary rivals, and his many posthumous admirers working in a wide range of media, in Japan and around the world, from the late nineteenth century to the present.
This context helps visitors see how Hokusai’s art has inspired generations of artists and how it fits into the broader cultural history of Japan and the world.
Exhibition catalogues can also serve as a gateway to further engagement with the artworks, even after the exhibition ends. They allow visitors to revisit the artwork, learn more about the artist, and deepen their understanding of the art.
For example, the Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation exhibition catalogue contextualizes Basquiat’s work in relation to his peers associated with hip-hop culture. It also marks the first time Basquiat’s extensive, robust, and reflective portraiture of his Black and Latinx friends and fellow artists has been given prominence in scholarship on his oeuvre.
With contributions from Carlo McCormick, Liz Munsell, Hua Hsu, J. Faith Almiron, and Greg Tate, Writing the Future captures the energy, inventiveness, and resistance unleashed when hip-hop hit the city. This comprehensive exploration of Basquiat’s work allows visitors to understand the artist’s vision and to appreciate his impact on contemporary art.
There is no question that these catalogues are valuable and play an essential role in helping visitors connect with artworks. They provide a comprehensive view of the artwork, offer context for the artwork, and serve as a gateway to further engagement with the artworks.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s publications are excellent examples of how exhibition catalogues can deepen visitors’ understanding of art and help them appreciate it on a more profound level.
If you are interested in purchasing any of these exhibition catalogues or exploring Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s other products and services, please visit their website.