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While our human need to eat is universal, as a culture we hunger for something beyond food itself, thus heightening the significance of the meal. The Modern Meal: Sustenance through Ritual investigates visual representations of the meal as a ritual of consumption connected to issues of place, resources, and social organization. The installation is divided into three sections, each structured around a duality—“Place | Displacement,” “Plenitude | Scarcity,” and “Freedom | Regimentation”—that highlights the spectrum of experiences, individual and shared, operating within different artistic depictions of the meal. Drawing primarily from the Kemper Art Museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition includes works by such artists as John Baldessari, Max Beckmann, and Sharon Lockhart that probe themes of social equality, identity, globalization, and food availability. Many of the artworks represent the tension between real and imagined meal spaces, while others reveal the effects that labor, marginalization, and war can have on the very character of the meal. Together they suggest the complexity of this apparently simple social form.

Selected works

About the Fellowship

The Modern Meal: Sustenance through Ritual is curated by the recipients of the 2016–17 Arthur Greenberg Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship, Sam Fox School students Mary Jewel Brown (BFA17), Claire Cofelice (BFA18), and Jack Radley (BFA18), all of whom are also pursuing majors or minors in the Department of Art History & Archaeology in Arts & Sciences.

The Arthur Greenberg Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship is a competitive program that offers upper-level art history students the opportunity to curate an exhibition in the Museum’s Teaching Gallery. The faculty and museum advisors for 2016–17 are John Klein, professor in the Department of Art History & Archaeology, and Allison Unruh, associate curator at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.


Support for the program is generously provided by the Arthur Greenberg Exhibition Program Fund, the Mark Weil Tribute Fund, and members of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.