Next time you go to an art gallery or museum—even virtually—consider what connects the art or artifacts in the show; why did the curator select these pieces for the exhibit? For example, it may be a show of Picasso’s blue period or a Group of Seven retrospective. Some art shows feature more than one artist linked by style, country, or era. For instance, a show such as American Impressionists of the 20th Century uses country, style, and period.
This idea was brought home to me recently as I watched a documentary about the history of the Jewish Museum in NYC. The curator spoke about how they mounted unique shows from their extensive collection of art and artifacts by organizing those collections in different ways. Grouping art by era, themes, or country, for instance, and artifacts by age, use, rarity, or geography.
Museums have thousands of artifacts in their collections. But they aren’t all on public display at one time. A show of Van Gogh, for instance, won’t bring all the Van Gogh paintings out of storage. The curator decides which paintings are relevant to the theme of the show. Simply hanging all of Van Gogh’s works on the walls would offer a view of many fantastic paintings, but without context.
Thoughtful curation creates the most impressive art exhibits. No surprise because one definition of creativity is the connecting of previously unconnected ideas/theories/processes. An art exhibit is exciting not simply because of the art but because a curator has decided on a context, has chosen a thread that runs through the show. What theme or connection did the curator use to present this slice of work? If the work of several artists is featured together, what is the theme that connects them? These themes or connections can bring new appreciation or awareness of the subject matter.
The same is true for your nonfiction book. You may know tons of facts about a subject, but your book is not simply a record of everything you know about a topic. Your book needs to be a curated collection of your knowledge. What you present in your book and how you organize that knowledge is what makes your book unique. For instance, a book that applies the best practices of one discipline to another is an example of bringing together two previously unconnected things to create something unique.
Heck, you can find examples in your refrigerator! Mayonnaise isn’t new, and mustard isn’t new—but Heinz’s new line of mashup products feature combinations of favourites, such as MayoMust (mayonnaise and mustard), Wasabioli (wasabi and garlic aioli) and Tarchup (tartar sauce and ketchup). It’s not art, but you get the idea!
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