Staff at the Harvard Art Museums possess a wealth of knowledge about the objects in our extensive collections. Most days, you’ll find them hard at work broadening that expertise in their offices, labs, and other work spaces throughout the museums. But they also savor the chance to share their passion with others, an opportunity provided by our new In-Focus Talks, developed by the Division of Academic and Public Programs (DAPP).
Offered up to three times per week, on weekdays at 12:30pm, these drop-in talks in the galleries are given by a museum curator, conservator, fellow, or other staff member. Talks might focus on a single work or grouping of works, a gallery's arguments, a conservation treatment, or the building’s architecture. Topics and themes are determined by the presenters.
“We are excited about the In-Focus Talks because they allow our staff to share their knowledge with multiple audiences,” said Jessica Martinez, the head of DAPP. “These talks are meant to be informative and accessible for a wide range of visitors, from families to students to museum professionals.”
Robert Wiesenberger, the Engelhorn Curatorial Fellow in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, recently gave an In-Focus Talk on Herbert Bayer’s 1924 drawings Design for Kiosk and Display Boards and Design for a Multi-Media Building. “They reflect the hothouse of avant-garde influences and ‘isms’ that animated the Bauhaus,” Wiesenberger said, referring to the early 20th-century modern art school that aimed to bring design, and particularly architecture, into everyday life. The ink and paper works, depicting interactive advertising venues, also “hint at Bayer’s ambitions for multimedia environments and propaganda,” Wiesenberger said. “Imagine how incredibly novel this was at the time.”
Other recent In-Focus Talks by curators have centered on Hair Necklace, a work by contemporary Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum; sculptures of the female form dating from the ancient times to the present; and paintings, drawings, and prints by 19th-century French artist Théodore Géricault. Chris Molinski, the Rabb Curatorial Fellow for DAPP, also gave a talk about contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s 258 Fake.
Each In-Focus Talk generally concludes after 20 minutes, followed by time for questions. Those final moments can be unexpectedly rewarding, as attendees at curator Mary Schneider Enriquez’s talk about Hair Necklace discovered. Questions from participants resulted in an enlightening discussion of another work in the gallery, Robert Gober’s Untitled (2009–10).
Even In-Focus Talks that don’t end in spontaneous discussion often spur further learning in the museums; after the talks, many visitors remain in the galleries, spending more time with works that were just examined or looking at other objects nearby with a fresh, informed perspective.
For a complete list of upcoming In-Focus Talks, as well as other events at the museums, visit our calendar.