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An insider’s experience of a cross-cultural exhibition : an autoethnography on the process of The Pavilion of Marital Harmony Wirth Brentini, Sophie P.

Abstract

This case study examines the process of mounting a collaborative exhibition of a collection of Chinese art in a European private "museum". The context and the cross-cultural process of this art exhibition, entitled The Pavilion of Marital Harmony, made it an unusual event and place this research at the cross-roads of art history, education, anthropology and museum studies. The mounting of the exhibition is examined through the literature related to cross-cultural questions, post-colonialism, and representations of other cultures. The specific commitments required by collaborations with people whose culture is being represented are tackled. In the case examined here, several factors made the collaboration between the guest curator (and author of this thesis), the Baur Collection's curator and the Chinese collection's lender very difficult. In order to understand them, the process of the exhibition is analysed from the genesis of its idea to the exhibition closure through methodologies such as autoethnography, narrative inquiry and action research. These methods are particularly adapted to this subject in which the producer, the process and the product are intertwined and never extracted from their context. They lead the author on the path of a reflexive process of understanding, on a thorough but personal examination and introspection into a single event produced by a particular group of people. The author's narrative is put in perspective through other voices: this work would not have been complete without the points of view of the two other "collaborators", and without the public's reactions to the exhibition. The author's intent is to share with the reader a personal experience, open to multiple voices that can be read through several lenses.

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