The Print Portfolio
"The German Print Portfolio: Serials for a Private Sphere" is the Smart Museum's first exhibition after five months of renovation to update its climate-control system and restructure its interior layout. The museum now contains 25 percent more display space, which is organized into rooms highlighting various periods in art history. The subject of each room stands on its own, but also relates to the others in a sequential order -- just like the prints in a portfolio.
" 'The German Print Portfolio' is a really nice way to reopen the museum because it enables us to show off our own collection," said Stephanie D'Alessandro, Associate Curator of the Smart Museum and designer of the show. "This works in two ways. We have many more examples from our permanent collection on display than we did previously, and of the 10 portfolios in the current exhibition, eight are from our own holdings. We're lucky to have them, because not only are they very distinguished in themselves, but we have the entire portfolios, including a lot of the covers, title pages and contents pages, which is rare.
"More importantly," D'Alessandro continued, "no one has ever before devoted an entire exhibition to the print portfolio. We really have something special."
Bold, black graphic titles on the walls mark the starting points of the portfolios, which are presented chronologically from the 1887 work of Max Klinger to the 1927 portfolio of Ernst Barlach.
The subtitle of the exhibition, "Serials for a Private Sphere," refers to distinct characteristics of the portfolio and the era in which it gained popularity.
According to D'Alessandro, the format of the portfolio, with its booklike containment and relatively small-scale images, lends itself to private, individual viewing.
Print portfolios were also distinctive in that they were sold to members of the private sector rather than used as representatives of a unified national or religious voice. The new middle class, which sought to distinguish itself as a cultured stratum of society, invested in print portfolios and other artwork that was marketed by dealers specifically targeting the new prosperity.