Exhibition Preparation: Read Before You Go (February 2017)

It’s common to want to know more about an artist or object on display after you’ve already seen them, but why not take a page out of the Boy Scouts’ playbook and be prepared.

Here are four exhibitions (some opening this month, others ongoing) and the books to read ahead of time to get the most out of your museum experience…


Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear
Victoria & Albert Museum—Through March 12, 2017

With over 200 undergarments from the 18th century to the present on display, a lot of sartorial ground is covered in this exhibition. However, beyond the fashion of it all, it is the societal implications of underwear that really fascinates.

Read Before You Go: Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners by Therese Oneill is a humorous look at womanhood in the Victorian Age, and yes, that includes underwear.


Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant
Museum of Food and Drink—Through April 2, 2017

Celebrating the 170-year history of the Chinese American restaurant, this exhibition not only showcases artifacts like a timeline of menus dating back to 1910, but also features tastings from some of the country’s best Chinese American chefs. Also, given the current climate in America, this exhibition couldn’t be a more timely look at immigration and all that it contributes to the fabric of our lives.

Read Before You Go: The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8 Lee is a perfect complement to MOFAD’s exhibition.


Merce Cunningham: Common Time
Walker Art Center—Through July 30, 2017MCA Chicago—Through April 30, 2017

Back in 1963, renowned choreographer Merce Cunningham and collaborators like Robert Rauschenberg (who had designed the sets) arrived at the Walker Art Center to stage a performance. Now, the Walker Art Center (and Chicago’s MCA) is showcasing this and other artistic collaborations in a noteworthy retrospective.

Read Before You Go: Chance and Circumstance is a memoir by Carolyn Brown, a founding member of Cunningham’s dance company, and provides a behind-the-scenes look at the man, his vision, and the artistic world of dance in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.


Person of the Crowd: The Contemporary Art of Flanerie
Barnes Foundation—February 25, 2017 through May 22, 2017

This exhibition brings together old and new works by more than 50 international artists who have found their inspiration by hitting the streets. And, since the art of flanerie could never be confined to a single gallery, you’ll find programs and performances spilling out onto the streets of Philadelphia.

Read Before You Go: Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London by Lauren Elkin flips the predominantly male image of the flaneur on its head.