How Partnerships with Museums Help Build a Strong Art List

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Welcome to the University Press Week blog tour! This year’s theme is #TurnItUP, offering posts that show how the university press community amplifies voices, disciplines, and communities. We’re pleased to be a part of Arts & Culture day with a post about how our partnerships with art museums amplify their work and help us build a strong art list. See the other great posts on the tour at the end of this post.

978-0-938989-42-4Duke University Press has long has a strong list in art and art history, and since the mid-2000s, that list has included a number of museum catalogs. Our earliest museum partner is the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Since they opened in 2005, we have distributed many catalogs for them, including Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool (2008), The Record (2010), Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey (2013), Southern Accent (2016), and most recently, Pop América, 1965–1975 (2018). The Nasher Museum’s mission to collect and display works by diverse artists who have been historically underrepresented, or even excluded, by mainstream arts institutions also fits with our own acquisition editors’ focus. “Duke Press has been a wonderful partner since the Nasher Museum opened in 2005,” said Sarah Schroth, Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum. “The Duke Press team has provided invaluable help in distributing our exhibition catalogues to art museums, book fairs and book critics around the country.”

Modern Art in the Arab WorldWorking with the Nasher Museum helped us build a reputation as a strong distributor of museum catalogs. In 2010 we began a partnership with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to distribute their Primary Documents series. Although sometimes associated with an exhibition, these titles are not catalogs but instead teaching and researching tools featuring primary documents associated with a particular artist or region, that often have never been available in English. The first volume we distributed was Contemporary Chinese Art (2010), and more recently we have distributed Modern Art in the Arab World (2018) and Art and Theory of Post-1989 Central and Eastern Europe (2018). These titles are a good fit with our area studies lists as well as our art list, and we can use our expertise in course adoption marketing to help MoMA reach a wider teaching audience.

Michael McCullough, Senior Manager for Books Marketing and Sales, says, “Marketing, selling, and distributing books from major museums is very helpful in raising our profile with museum shops and art buyers. We only distribute books that complement our own books and journals publishing programs; so whether a distributed title came from MoMA or the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, it will look at home in the Duke University Press catalog.”

We Wanted a Revolution 2Recently we have undertaken collaborations with the Museum of Latin American Art  and the Chinese American Museum, with catalogs that were part of the Pacific Standard Time LA/LA collaboration. We were also excited to partner with the Brooklyn Museum on their exhibition We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85. We distributed a Sourcebook for the exhibition that features an array of rare and little-known documents from the period by artists, writers, cultural critics, and art historians as well as a second volume of New Perspectives, containing original essays and perspectives that place the exhibition’s works in both historical and contemporary contexts.

Begin to SeeCurator Julie J. Thomson, author of Begin to See: The Photographers of Black Mountain College, a catalog for her exhibition at the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center says, “After spending years researching an exhibition which is up for a limited time, the exhibition catalog reaches beyond who could visit the museum, and is what remains. Duke University Press’s distribution of the catalog for Begin to See allowed museum bookstores and art libraries to know about it and order it. It’s reassuring to know that future scholars will be able to access my research and writing through the catalog held in library collections throughout the world.”

Editorial Director Ken Wissoker agrees that publishing catalogs is useful for acquisitions. “Whether it is the Black feminist show We Wanted a Revolution from the Brooklyn Museum or The Record from the Nasher Museum, museum catalogs are a crucial part of our list, even beyond the areas in the arts where one expects them to contribute.  We have authors writing for the catalogs and others bringing their books to us because they loved the catalogs on our list. This is a great crossover moment between art and critical thinking, and the catalogs could not play a more important role in that exchange.”

Please continue on the University Press Week blog tour by visiting these other great university press offerings: Athabasca University Press offers a playlist by author Mark A. McCutcheon of all the songs featured in his book The Medium Is the Monster: Canadian Adaptations of Frankenstein and the Discourse of Technology. Rutgers University Press dedicates a post to our their book Junctures in Women’s Leadership: The Arts by Judith Brodsky and Ferris Olin. Over at Yale University Press, check out a post by author Dominic Bradbury about how immigrants enrich a country’s art and architecture. University of Minnesota Press is running a post about their author Adrienne Kennedy, who will be inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame on Nov. 12th. Hope you enjoy all these great #TurnItUP posts! 

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