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Historic networks and commemoration: Connections created through museum exhibitions

Description

This research examines how contextualization of artists within historical cohort networks affects art historical commemoration. Examining a population of 236 artists who first exhibited between 1946 and 1955 in three of the Netherland’s largest museums (Boijmans, Stedelijk, and Van Abbemuseum), we examine the cohort connections curators create for these artists through exhibition and analyse how such connections affect historical commemoration. We argue a “historic network” is created through museum exhibitions, where exhibitions position artists within history. Employing network analysis, we examine exhibition connections established for artists with prior (1930–1945), concurrent (1946–1955), and subsequent artist cohorts (1956–1989)—altogether examining connections across 317 exhibitions and analysing a network of 4 428 individual artists. Using sequence analysis, we show when historic cohort networks are employed within exhibition and how these networks evolve over time. Next, we examine which type of networks receive the greatest art historical commemoration. Our findings indicate those artists with the most consistent and coherent networks are far more likely to be recognized and remembered. We argue because history is presented relationally, those artists with overarching historic cohort connections fit more easily into a historical narrative, leading to a greater likelihood of being commemorated over time. Overall, the research introduces the idea of historic cohort networks to provide an analysis of how museum exhibitions contextualize artists within history and affect art history and commemoration.

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