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The Theoretical Show – Open Call for Proposals

The Theoretical Show

Open Call for Proposals juried by:

  • Larissa Harris, curator, Queens Museum of Art
  • Naima J. Keith, assistant curator, the Studio Museum in Harlem
  • Prem Krishnamurthy, director & curator, P!; founding principal, Project Project
  • David Senior, bibliographer, Museum of Modern Art Library

All exhibitions start as proposals. In theory, they are all perfect—at least in the eyes of those writing them. But few, if any, are realized to the extent that their creator had originally hoped. What if there was a way to freeze that original moment, when an idea is still fresh and unhampered, pristine and pure?

Recently an intelligent show, scheduled at EFA Project Space for late 2014, unexpectedly fell through. Perhaps this show was only ever meant to be theoretical—not an exhibition with objects. We decided to take this opportunity to think about the relationship between exhibition spaces, curators, and artists, and to consider what exactly it is that we do, as one of many nonprofit spaces in New York that facilitates exhibition-making. “Guest + Host = Ghost,” Marcel Duchamp punned. The assumption is that the gallery is the host and the curator is the guest. But is the gallery also a guest who gets the honor of seeing a show develop? And is the curator a host who does everything within her power to make the show the best it can be? Then are the artists guests of the curator, or hosts of the viewers? And who, or what, is the Ghost?

There are boundaries we face as producers of exhibitions, as hosts and as guests. What if these boundaries didn’t exist? As a way of thinking about these roles and their implications, we are opening our doors to all aspiring and working curators through an open call for the most outrageous, audacious, impossible exhibition proposals imaginable. Please send us proposals for shows regardless of practical limitations—submissions may include any number of artists alive or dead (or none at all), use any locations on this planet (or off), and assume a budget that is limitless. An esteemed jury—Larissa Harris, curator, Queens Museum of Art; Naima J. Keith, assistant curator, the Studio Museum in Harlem; Prem Krishnamurthy, director & curator, P!, and founding principal, Project Project; and David Senior, bibliographer, Museum of Modern Art Library—will evaluate the proposals and select the most outrageous and wonderful to be presented as gallery-ready objects, developed in consultation with the jurors and our staff.

The only stipulations are that proposals should be no longer than 500 words and must in some way respond to the following terms and phrases (suggested by our jury):

Small is beautiful
Flipped on its side
Turned over

All of the proposals, excepting those with content that is deemed offensive, cruel, or inappropriate, will be printed and placed on view in the EFA Project Space gallery for visitors to read.

Please join us in creating The Theoretical Show, a show of exhibitions that could happen only in our dreams.

Deadline for proposals: September 1, 2014
Dates of Exhibition: November 14th–December 20th, 2014

Send proposals to [email protected] with the subject line: theoretical show. Inline email only; no attachments please.


Deadline 9/1/2014
Contact Name The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts
Contact Email [email protected]