Approaching Illumination at Christie's

It can be challenging to publicly exhibit client artwork because of its sensitivity. While the work in Illumination has been approved by clients and art therapists to be on view at Christie's, the artwork can be triggering for audiences.Lisa Cooper, gallery owner of Elisa Contemporary Art, curated Illumination at Christie's and provides an accessible format that takes the viewer on a sensory journey. Below, you will read how Cooper approached Illumination, which are helpful considerations to take into account prior to viewing the exhibition.


My approach to curating this exhibit is similar to other shows I curate -- it is based on the art. While I think it is so important to see and read the artist statements, I start every project by just looking at the art.

A Journey For All The Senses

I started with one piece which I believe has a powerful presence, Bright Idea, and I selected it as the first artwork to draw people into the exhibit. From that point, the order of the artwork is aimed at taking the viewer on a journey. It will be a journey for all the senses. They will be connected first visually through the art, and then impacted both mentally and emotionally by the story behind and within the work.  

Concrete to Abstract

In the first section, I focused on artwork filled with people, masks and facial elements. There was a wonderful range of work with collage, drawings, photography and dimensional pieces. I then transitioned into work with strong words including "Life.”  The next group of art communicated through animal imagery -- both real and imagined. This first section is all about living entities -- those with a heart and a soul. And the power to heal and transform.The journey continues with artwork of color, shape and movement.  The messages through the art communicated transition, change and process.


The next section focuses on place.  The artwork within this section starts with stars and galaxy and moves into real and imagined worlds -- all around the globe -- along the coasts, in the country and within cities.

The Takeaway

What I think is so important for the viewer is to see the healing process that takes place by creating this art.  Many times, for the creator, it is one of the only ways of communicating and sometimes letting go of what they are holding within.

It is also important to realize that the action of exhibiting client art is a step within the recovery process and can offer clients opportunities for change. For example, sharing traumatic experiences with others can:

  • Reduce isolation

  • Conclude an emotional event

  • Transform a negative experience

  • Encourage empowerment

Audiences should approach Illumination with openness, respect and an objective viewpoint, even though the artwork and experiences may trigger strong reactions. Those responses, however, can also be considered opportunities for the public to make positive changes in our community, especially in creating a more inclusive, respectful and participatory future. 

All PostsMartha Dorn