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Your Own Special Exhibition

For Grades 5–12

Tom Wesselmann (American, 1931–2004). Still Life #20, 1962. Mixed media, 41 x 48 x 5 1/2 inches (104.1 x 121.9 x 14 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1962. Art © Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Table of Contents

Featured Works
Background Information for Educators
Activity 1
Activity 2
New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum

Featured Works

Jacques Callot’s Robbery on the Highway from the series “The Miseries and Misfortunes of War,” 1633
Joseph Cornell’s Untitled (babe in swaddling with sheep), ca. 1960
Réne Magritte’s La Voix des airs (The Voice of Space), 1928
Alison Saar’s Bareroot, 2007
Tom Wesselmann’s Still Life #20, 1962


Students will:

  • Learn about some of the tasks involved in selecting and presenting works for an art exhibition
  • Discover connections between the works of art they select
  • Curate their own exhibition using a work in the special exhibition Surveyor as inspiration
  • Write descriptive and interpretative material to accompany their exhibition
  • Present their exhibitions to their classmates


  • Surveyor Presentation
  • Printed images of artwork collected from the internet, books, and/or magazines
  • Other art materials and paper (optional)

Background Information for Educators

One of the tasks performed by museum curators is designing exhibitions, which involves deciding themes, selecting artworks, and thinking carefully about where they are displayed for both visual and thematic reasons. Curators are also responsible for writing exhibition descriptions (an example is on Slide #1 in the Surveyor Presentation) and object labels to accompany each work (an example is below).

For Surveyor, five local artists were invited to curate a selection of works from the Gallery’s Collection to accompany their own works. Your students can choose other images of works of art from the internet, books, or magazines to create an exhibition of their own.

Activity 1

Show Slides #10–16 from the Surveyor Presentation. Have students select one of the images to use as the inspiration for an exhibition.

Their assignment:

A. The image you have selected will be one of the works of art in your exhibition. Select two additional works of art from the images in the presentation, the artist's website, or any other collection of images and write an exhibition description that includes the following:

  • A title for your exhibition
  • The theme of the exhibition
  • Why you chose the work you selected from the Surveryor Presentation, how you decided on the theme, and how this image inspired your exhibition

B. Write an object label that will accompany each work in the exhibition. Each label should be no more than two hundred words and include:

  • A heading with the artist, title, date the work was created, and materials of the original work
  • A brief description of the important aspects of the work
  • An explanation of how the work fits the theme of the exhibition

Sample Object Label

Tom Wesselmann. Still Life #20, 1962. Mixed media.
I chose this work for this exhibition because my theme is artists who use both real objects and works of art by other artists in their own artwork. Pop artists in the 1960s were interested in bringing objects from everyday life into art, as well as taking inspiration from commercial design and packaging. In this work you can see a real can of Ajax, a real sink, and what looks like real soap combined with cut out images of Ballantine Ale, diet bread, and Coca Cola. In 1962, these objects were all quite common in American kitchens and some still are, although the packaging and design for some of the products have changed. The predominant colors are red, white, and blue, and there is a star on the door of the cabinet, all of which might remind a viewer of the United States. A poster of a painting by the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian is collaged onto the work. It is an abstract painting using only horizontal and vertical lines, primary colors, and black and white. 

Optional Additional Activity

Have students create a work of their own to include in the exhibition. Ask them to create an object label for their work, similar to the object label they created in Part B of Activity 1, above. 

Activity 2

Have students present their exhibitions to the class.
Have students actually mount their exhibitions on display boards around the classroom. Make sure they think carefully about where they place each work, and have them explain their decisions.

New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum

  • New York State Learning Standards for the Arts (Visual Arts, including the museum visit) 1, 2, 3, 4
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 (New York only)
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening 1, 2, 4, 5, 6
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 (New York only)


  • Réne Magritte’s La Voix des airs (The Voice of Space): Audio for Younger Students

  • Réne Magritte’s La Voix des airs (The Voice of Space): Audio for High School Students

  • Réne Magritte’s La Voix des airs (The Voice of Space): Audio Description