"Plastic Entanglements" breaks Palmer Museum attendance record

April 17, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Since the opening of the "Plastic Entanglements: Ecology, Aesthetics, Materials" eight weeks ago at the Palmer Museum of Art, attendance to the museum has ballooned by an unprecedented 32 percent. The record-breaking visitor numbers — more than 1,000 per week, which is hundreds more than the usual average — have soared as people of all ages come to explore the innovative, interdisciplinary exhibition that examines humanity’s past, present and future relationship to plastic.

“When attendance is up, engagement is up,” said Erin Coe, director of the Palmer Museum of Art. “The numbers also reflect the extent to which the exhibition topic, and its message of sustainability, has resonated with our audiences, both old and new alike.”     

The Palmer typically welcomes around 35,000 visitors each year and averages 8,750 per quarter, but this year – due to the thought-provoking exhibition and how it illustrates modern society’s environmental, aesthetic, and technological involvement with plastics – the museum had already surpassed that with a month to spare. With another two months to go before it closes, "Plastic Entanglements" will likely become the most-visited exhibition in the museum’s history.

Organized by the Palmer Museum of Art, "Plastic Entanglements" investigates the complex story of plastic by bringing together 60 works by 30 contemporary artists from across the globe. Unfolding in three sections, the show examines and questions society’s historical, modern and prospective bond with plastic. It begins with “the archive” that plastic creates (experienced as collections of waste mined and used by the artists in the show); then it moves to depict “the entangled present” and the paradoxes of plastic’s seductive materiality, pervasiveness, and environmental degradation; and it concludes with the “speculative futures” of the material, asking what biological and technological consequences plastic may impact for life to come.

A related exhibition, "Gravity Schmavity: Repurposed Plastic Sculptures by Aurora Robson," will open at the Arboretum at Penn State on June 2. Supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the outdoor exhibition in the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens will spotlight new work by Aurora Robson, a multimedia artist well-known for her transformative, upcycled three-dimensional objects. Jointly organized by the Palmer and the arboretum, the exhibition will feature works made from industrial plastic culled from Penn State’s industrial waste and recycling stream and will be on view through Oct. 29.

"Plastic Entanglements" closes on June 17 before moving on for a national tour to three additional venues including the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, University of Oregon; Smith College Museum of Art; and the Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, where the exhibition closes in January 2020.

  • Visitors view Aurora Robson's work

    Visitors view Aurora Robson's work during the opening reception of "Plastic Entanglements"

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Visitors view Pinar Yoldas' work

    Visitors view Pinar Yoldas' work during the opening reception of "Plastic Entanglements"

    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated April 17, 2018