Exhibitions and Museums: When Are They Art?

Video of a talk given at the Aesthetics Research Centre of the University of Kent on April 3rd 2019.



Elisa Caldarola (2022), “Katharina Grosse: It Wasn’t Us”, in Bloomsbury Contemporary Aesthetics, edited by Darren Hudson Hick, London: Bloomsbury, forthcoming.

Katharina Grosse’s It Wasn’t Us was on show at the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum in Berlin, between 14 June, 2020 and 10 January 2021. In the main hall of this nineteenth century train station, now a museum, stood massive, abstractly sculpted, kaleidoscopically painted Styrofoam blocks; parts of the main hall floor, of the outdoor space behind the building, and of the façade of the museum’s extension were also painted kaleidoscopically. Here I shall examine three aspects of this work: its relationship with pictorial, sculptural and architectural works; its links with the Hamburger Bahnhof building; and its interactive character.

Katharina Grosse, It Wasn’t Us, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2020-2021)

Elisa Caldarola, “On Experiencing Installation Art”, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 78: 3, 2020.

Robert Irwin, Untitled, 1971, Walker Arts Centre

This paper is part of the symposium on installation art I co-edited with Gemma Argüello (UNAM), which presents articles by Argüello, Eleen Deprez (University of Kent), Ken Wilder (University of the Arts, London) and myself.


Elisa Caldarola “Martin Creed: Conceptual Art and More”, in D. Dal Sasso and E. Schellekens (eds.), “Aesthetics, Philosophy and Martin Creed”, London: Bloomsbury, 2021 forthcoming.

Abstract: In this paper, I put forward a philosophical analysis of some works by Martin Creed. I suggest that all the works under consideration are works of conceptual art as well as of installation art, and that they display significant expressive properties. The paper is structured as follows: in the first section, I claim that the works are ontologically similar and that they all appear problematic, because it is not very clear how they should be appreciated as artworks; in the second section, I argue that the works belong to the genre conceptual art, that they are presented for intellectual appreciation, and that this is compatible with the fact that they also have expressive properties; in the third section, I submit that the works also belong to the category installation art and I explain what expressive properties they display. In the conclusion, I remark briefly on the interaction between the intellectual and aesthetic appreciation of Creed’s works.

Elisa Caldarola, “Filosofia dell’arte contemporanea. Installazioni, siti, idee”, Macerata: Quodlibet, 2020.

Martin Creed, The lights going on and off, Park Avenue Armory, NYC, 2016; photo: Elisa Caldarola

I have a forthcoming monograph, in Italian, on installation art, exhibition installations, site-specific art, conceptual art and street art.

More info here: https://www.quodlibet.it/libro/9788822905307

Here’s the blurb (in Italian):

L’arte contemporanea è caleidoscopica: può catapultarci in ambienti complessi o minimali richiedendo la nostra attiva partecipazione, ancorarsi a luoghi particolari, porci di fronte a opere apparentemente indistinguibili da oggetti ed eventi della vita quotidiana, appropriarsi illegalmente degli spazi pubblici, e così via. Questo volume muove dalla premessa che uno dei compiti della filosofia dell’arte sia prestare attenzione a specifiche pratiche artistiche e a teorie sull’arte avanzate in altri ambiti di ricerca, per poi organizzare in maniera perspicua la molteplicità dei dati raccolti. I filosofi possono così costruire teorie quanto più generali possibile per cercare di spiegare ciò che emerge da tali dati. Le ricerche qui presentate si concentrano su alcuni fenomeni, accuratamente scelti nell’ampio panorama dell’arte contemporanea: l’installation art e i suoi rapporti con l’installazione espositiva, l’arte sito-specifica e la sua appartenenza alla più ampia tradizione dell’arte situata, il ruolo delle idee nell’arte concettuale e il carattere sovversivo della street art. Sfruttando l’efficacia esplicativa del concetto di medium artistico, nonché della individuazione di forme e generi d’arte, le analisi qui presentate indagano le ragioni per cui in queste pratiche artistiche sono centrali l’esperienza dello spazio, l’interazione fra opere e pubblico, i luoghi d’installazione delle opere e gli oggetti come portatori di significati.

Elisa Caldarola, “Improvisation and Installation Art”, forthcoming in “Routledge Handbook of Philosophy and Improvisation in the Arts” (eds. A. Bertinetto and M. Ruta)

Sarah Sze, Triple Point – Planetarium, U.S. Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2013, photo: Elisa Caldarola

Abstract: This chapter illustrates through the analysis of some examples how philosophical research can illuminate the improvisational aspects of installation art. There is little philosophical research on improvisation in the visual arts.[1] Similarly, there is little philosophical research on installation art – in section 2, I mention some key claims that have been put forward.[2] Not surprisingly, then, philosophers have not yet focussed – at least to my knowledge – on improvisation in installation art. The issue, though, is timely. Not only some installation artists have explored improvisation in their practice, both solo and collaboratively (see section 3) but, as I shall argue, it can be claimed that some works of installation art represent or express improvisation (section 4), that some invite the public to engage in improvisation (section 5), and that curatorial teams responsible for the displays of certain installation artworks have the opportunity to introduce improvisational elements in their practice, if they so wish (section 6).

[1] For an introduction to improvisation in the arts see Bresnahan (2015). On improvisation in painting see Gilmour (2000), Sawyer (2000), Sansom (2001), Colaizzi (2007). On improvisation in cinema see Wexman (1980) and Sterrit (2000).

[2] On the aesthetic appreciation of installation art see Rebentisch (2012); on the ontology of installation art see Irvin (2013).

Talk: “Exhibitions and Museums: When Are They Art?” at Aesthetics Research Centre, University of Kent

On Wednesday 3rd of April 2019 I’ll be giving a talk at the Aesthetics Research Centre, University of Kent in Canterbury (UK).

Abstract: Marcel Broodthaer’s Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles (1968) confronted the public with an exhibition that criticized traditional museum practices by means of appropriating them. This work was explicitly intended to qualify as both an exhibition and a work of conceptual art. In this talk, I explore the hypothesis that the artwork status of some exhibitions might instead have remained, so far, unnoticed, even by their makers. To illustrate my view, I analyze the exhibition of pre-and proto-historic artifacts at Berlin’s Neues Museum and argue that such exhibition is a work of site-specific installation art.

Here’s the link to their full program: http://aesthetics-research.org

Palladio Museum, Vicenza, Italy

Talk: “Exhibitions and Museums: When Are They Art?” at the Aesthetics Seminar, Department of Philosophy, Uppsala University

Neues Museum, Berlin, copyright: Elisa Caldarola

On February 13th 2019, I will be giving a talk at the Aesthetics Seminar in the Department of Philosophy at Uppsala University, Sweden.


The title of the talk is “Exhibitions and Museums: When Art They Art?”.

Abstract: The claims that certain museum-exhibits and exhibitions are artworks or that they share significant resemblances with artworks are currently circulating in both art-theoretical and philosophical literature (see e.g. Carrier 2006; Hein 2006; Foster 2013; Ventzislavov 2014; Voorhies 2017). In the first part of my talk, I show how recent research on art-kinds and conventions in art-making (Lopes 2008; 2014; Xhignesse 2016; 2019 forthcoming) offers a framework for making sense of such claims. In the second part, I argue that some museum-exhibits and exhibitions are works of installation art.


Carrier, David (2006), Museum Skepticism. A History of The Display of Art in Public Galleries, Duke University Press.

Foster, Hal (2013), The Art-Architecture Complex, Verso.

Hein, Hilde (2006), Public Art. Thinking Museums Differently, Altamira Press.

Lopes, Dominic (2008), “Nobody Needs a Theory of Art”, The Journal of Philosophy, 105(3): 109-27.

Lopes, Dominic (2014), Beyond Art, Oxford University Press.

Ventzislavov, Rossen (2014), “Idle Arts: Reconsidering The Curator”, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 72: 83-93.

Voorhies, James (2017), Beyond Objecthood: The Exhibition as a Critical Form since 1968, MIT Press.

Xhignesse, Michel (2016), Attempting Art: an Essay on Intention-Dependence, PhD Thesis submitted to McGill University, Montreal.

Xhignesse, Michel (2019), “What Makes a Kind an Art-Kind?”,TheBritish Journal of Aesthetics, forthcoming.




Elisa Caldarola (2019), “Assessing the Intellectual Value of New Genre Public Art”, Open Philosophy, 2(1): 22-29.


Here you can find the paper.


Suzanne Lacy introduced the term ‘New Genre Public Art’ (NGPA) to refer to art practices that depart from those traditional of public art (such as installing works in parks and plazas) and focus instead on the direct engagement of artists with audiences to deal with pressing socio-political issues. In this paper, I argue that some works of NGPA should be valued for the intellectual value grounded in their artistic features, not dissimilarly to works of conceptual art. In developing my argument, I take distance from Vid Simoniti’s recent account of ‘Socially Engaged Art’, offer a thorough analysis of Thomas Hirschhorn’s Bataille Monument (2002) and Kathrin Bohm’s and Stefan Saffer’s Mobile Porch (1999), and submit that both such works qualify as good works of NGPA.

Thomas Hirschhorn, Bataille Monument (2002), copyright: Thomas Hirschhorn,  Fair Use (https://www.wikiart.org/en/thomas-hirschhorn/bataille-monument-2002)