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Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts

Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts

Thinking about History with the Block's Collection

Kate Hadley Toftness & Essi Rönkkö
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Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts invites readers to think critically about how artists, artworks, and museums engage with narratives of the past. Richly illustrated and written for a general audience, this book showcases the depth and breadth of more than fifty recent acquisitions to the Block Museum of Art's contemporary collection, including a wide-ranging selection of works by Dawoud Bey, Shan Goshorn, the Guerrilla Girls, Marisol, Kerry James Marshall, Catherine Opie, Man Ray, Cindy Sherman, Thomas Struth, Tseng Kwong Chi, and Kara Walker, among other artists.

The book is a companion publication to the 2021 exhibition of the same name, presented to celebrate the museum's fortieth anniversary, and both draw inspiration from a work by conceptual artist Louise Lawler, Who Says, Who Shows, Who Counts (1990), and are organized around challenging questions of historical representation within artworks and institutions: How can art help us reflect upon, question, rewrite, or reimagine the past? Who has been represented in visual art, how, and by whom? How is history etched onto a landscape or erased from it? How do museums and dominant canons of art history shape our view of history and of the past?

Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts demonstrates how an academic art museum's collection can facilitate multidisciplinary connections and tell stories about issues relevant to our lives.


Kate Hadley Toftness is the senior advancement manager, grants and Collection Council at the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University. Her previous work, at Rebuild Foundation, an arts nonprofit on the South Side of Chicago led by artist Theaster Gates, the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago, and the Yale University Art Gallery, has focused on collections-based engagement programs.

Essi Rönkkö is the associate curator of collections at the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University. She worked for the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College from 2009 to 2015, before joining the Block in 2016. Her work has focused on connecting collections to academic curricula. She is the coeditor of Portrait of a Child: Historical and Scientific Studies of a Roman Egyptian Mummy (2019).


  • Publisher: ‎Block Museum; 1st edition (October 15, 2021)
  • Language: ‎English
  • Paperback: ‎144 pages
  • ISBN-10: ‎1732568421
  • ISBN-13: ‎9781732568426
  • Item Weight: ‎1.09 pounds
  • Dimensions: ‎9.75 x 0.6 x 7 inches
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