Off the Map: The Provenance of a Painting provides a case study in provenance research of a single work in the Nasher Museum’s collection: Portrait of an Artist, attributed to Joseph Wright of Derby (1734–1797) and bequested to the Nasher in 2013 by Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans. From England to Berlin, New York to Durham, the 18th-century painting has journeyed far and seen numerous owners, auctions houses, and exhibitions since its creation 250 years ago.
The objects that fill museums have often traveled long distances and passed through many hands to arrive at their current location. The physical movement of artworks through time and space becomes a part of their story, adding layers of meaning to the objects’ existence. To study a work’s history of ownership is to research its provenance. From the French word provenir, or “to come from,” provenance relates to an object’s origins and the path it has taken over tens, hundreds, and even thousands of years. Establishing provenance—past owners, locations, and types of transactions—addresses issues of attribution, histories of taste, cultural and monetary value, and notions of ownership itself.
Incubator Exhibition Proposals
Proposals for exhibitions in the Incubator Gallery will be accepted and evaluated on a rolling basis, but keep in mind that organizing an exhibition may take one year or longer and scheduling is dependent on the availability of the gallery.
Please contact Julia K. McHugh, Ph.D., Trent A. Carmichael Curator of Academic Initiatives, at email@example.com as soon as you have a potential idea for an exhibition.