Thursday, May 11, 2017

Crow 31 Days: 365 Days of Exhibitions: How We Choose

When the Crow Collection opened our doors in 1998, the permanent collection was displayed with some attention to permanence with each gallery assigned to represent a geographical region of the collection (Japan, China, India and Southeast Asia). The Mezzanine Level was a place for rotations of--the permanent collection. 

Things were different then --we had three staff positions (today we have 42) and 1-2 programs a month (in 2016 we offered over 600 programs). As our first months and years unfolded we quickly learned that visitors had a thirst for change, and a desire to see works beyond the permanent collection. 


In our first twelve years, our strategy was for the most part responsive and reactive: responsive to the trends and interests of the community, reactive to the offers of traveling exhibitions that came our way. We held some "blockbusters" by Crow Collection standards. 


Our first traveling exhibition in 2000 was a major exhibition of Chinese ivories commissioned for New Spain with over 200 works borrowed from an important collection in Monterrey, Mexico. This launched our continued interest studying Asia's place in globalism. 


2001 launched a traveling exhibition: What do Objects Tell Us: a beautiful project celebrating perspectives around our collection including label copy written by the director, the educator, the curator and the conservator.  


In 2003, we borrowed an exhibition of Shunzhi Porcelains from the late collector Sir Michael Butler. We held an exhibition of the Ann and Gabriel Barbier Mueller Samurai Collection: a precursor to their future museum. 


In 2008, for our ten-year anniversary, we crossed Texas a few dozen times to present five exhibitions of Texas Collects Asia: honoring the collecting and audacious spirit of families creating a new context for understanding art and culture from Asia. 


A series of six exhibitions from the Rubin Museum in New York City offered a welcome framework and a continuation on a theme. It was just after that collaboration ended, and we experienced the success of Texas Collects, that we decided to pause and asked the question: 


What works?


We acknowledged a history of community building, growth and experimentation. We tried things and met success and failure. We created a system for studying the projects that had come and gone with multiple lenses and perspectives. 


As a result of that inquiry: a process led by our curator Dr. Caron Smith, the museum developed a set of criteria by which to assess future ideas and opportunities. This list became the DNA of our strategy: 


1. Scale: Gallery (how does it "fit" in our space)
2. Story (does it tell a good story)
3. Local Connection (is there a tie to Dallas)
4. Drama/Powerful (wow factor)
5. Focus
6. Brand Appeal (intergenerational/approachable)
7. Educational (content-rich?)
8. Scholarship (research-rich?)
9. Cultural (aspects beyond art history)
10.  Urgency (will visitors want to see it before it closes)
11. Fresh (new idea?)
12. Wonder (can we see this with child’s eyes/imagination) 



Wonder is the first of all passions. (Descartes)
Adopted July 2009 

For the next five years, these words became the architecture of our choice. With intention, we sought projects that created offerings such as wonder and story. The Crow Collection is a place to explore who we are as humans and understand with more consciousness our connections to this beautiful world. What a wondrous opportunity we have to be part of every visitor's transformation. These criteria: thoughtfully developed 8 years ago, are present in our values as an organization and inspired our development of a curatorial department. 

Today, the curatorial work is led by Dr. Jacqueline Chao, Dr. Qing Chang and Dr. Caron Smith. Exhibitions are selected carefully through many months of research, travel, exploration and discussion with many members of our team. The spirit of these original 12 words lives on in their work, but is more dimensional with a strong focus in international projects and contemporary dialogues. 

How we choose is based on who we are: a collection of Asian Art in Dallas, Texas creating new contexts for how Asia is truly of the world. We are studying the importance of multiculturalism in this responsibility of choosing. We are studying equality and seeking difference in our voices. We are learning about compassion--and all of these learnings are guiding us to a future that is more relevant, more empathic and more authentic. This museum has a story to tell. With that we have a responsibility to tell this story with informed experience, mindful, respectful intention and a word critical to our past and to our future: Love. 


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