Conceal. Display. Entice.

Boxes as cross-cultural art and object.

July 27–September 30, 2012

Press Release

Given its power both to conceal and display its contents, a box is an object that entices curiosity. Utilitarian or decorative, small or large, a box may serve many purposes.  It can function as a container for safekeeping, as a prop to display contents, or as a symbol of prestige. Spanning time periods and cultures, the box varies widely in scale and purpose—from a decorative piece that might fit in the palm of a hand, to a human dwelling designed to offer comfort and protection. 

This exhibition is the culminating project by students in the 2012 Smith College Summer Institute in Art Museum Studies (SIAMS). Drawn from the permanent collection of Smith College Museum of Art, the 33 works on view include contemporary sculpture, traditional decorative art objects, and works on paper. Grouped thematically rather than chronologically or according to nationality, everyday or mundane objects are sometimes juxtaposed with boxes created for ceremonial, aesthetic, or symbolic purposes. Some works function as containers, while others are conceptual interpretations or representations, merely making reference to traditional notions of what constitutes a box. 

Viewers are invited to carefully consider and ask questions about the objects on display and to think about them in new ways—outside the box.

The annual SIAMS exhibition is made possible by support from The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston.

SIAMS Class of 2012


Image Credit: Larry Bell. American, born 1939. Untitled, 1969. Vacuum-plated glass box with chrome binding on plexi self-base. Cube: 18 ¼ x 18 ¼ x 18 ¼ in. Purchased.