The Museum

The Museum is a 16mm narrative short about the Art Institute of Chicago as an architectural, as well as social, cultural and political space. As the film unfolds, the viewer is introduced to a series of characters—an artist, a curator, an art historian, a conservator, a security guard, and a janitor—whose narratives intersect within the space of the museum.

  • Annette Elliot
  • Annette Elliot
  • Charín Alvarez
    Key Cast
    "art historian"
  • James Vincent Meredith
    Key Cast
  • Cheryl Lynn Bruce
    Key Cast
    "art conservator"
  • Kelly Owens
    Key Cast
  • Jenifer Goode
    Key Cast
  • Sanghoon Lee
  • Annette Elliot
  • Julian Flavin
    Sound Designer and Mixer
  • Sydney Sullivan
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    15 minutes 11 seconds
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Super 16 mm
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Annette Elliot

Annette Elliot is a writer and filmmaker who creates intimate psychological portraits. Her films draw self-consciously on the history of painting, sculpture and architecture. In 2012, she completed a Master of Fine Arts at School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was awarded the Fred J. Forster Fellowship for emerging artists. Other awards include the Illinois Arts Council Grant, DCASE Individual Artist Grant, Sundance Development Track Finalist, SAIC Faculty Enrichment Grant, Luminarts Visual Arts Fellowship, and the Polish Museum of America Pulaski Grant. Her public video installations have been exhibited internationally, including in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Berlin, Germany; Toffia, Italy; Iquitos, Peru; and Wellington, New Zealand.

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Director Statement

The Museum develops an austere formal style, deploying the typically realist techniques of long take, wide angle and deep focus shots. Influenced by Italian Renaissance paintings and the later paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, I use the architecture of the Art Institute itself as a structuring device. Empty arcades, staircases and hallways create an enigmatic visual poetry. The color palette is cool and restricted, brushed in shades of grey, blue, and white.

The film builds meaning scene by scene, creating a complex weave of relationships. Through a series of interconnected stories, the film challenges the pervasive preconception of the museum as a white space and the tendency to equate whiteness with beauty, taste and classical ideals.

“The idealization of white marble,” writes Margaret Talbot, “is an aesthetic born of a mistake.” Ancient Greek and Roman statues were not of pure white marble. They were painted in myriad colors, “red pigment on lips, black pigment on coils of hair, mirrorlike gilding on limbs.” Color, however, was perceived as garish and cheap, and so for centuries archeologists have been scrubbing away these traces of color before presenting ancient sculptures to the public. “Westerners had been engaged in an act of collective blindness.”

Important to the subject matter is casting African American and Hispanic actors in the leading roles of the film. The artist Kerry James Marshall underscored the importance of representing subjects with an array of skin tones, from carbon black to ivory black, “If you come to the museum and say man there is some great shit in here. Then at some point you are going to say, I want to be in here too. You have to figure out how to make sure there are as many black figures in the museum as there are white figures. It is the only way you will recognize that you belong there too.”