[NetBehaviour] pourinfos.org [apostils] : Displaying works of art. Some remarks about exhibition design. |Jerome Glicenstein|

xavier cahen cahen.x at levels9.com
Thu Sep 28 16:43:00 CEST 2006

Geert Dekkers a écrit :
> Thanks for this. RIght in the middle of my own studies into the "black 
> cube" (as opposed the the white one) and duration on http://nznl.com
> Geert
Is it really black and cube ? mine is gray, flat and square...

> On 28/09/2006, at 11:12 AM, xavier cahen wrote:
>> pourinfos.org
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>> [apostils] [apostils] [apostils] [apostils] [apostils] [apostils] 
>> [apostils]
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>> Displaying works of art. Some remarks about exhibition design.
>> By Jérôme Glicenstein
>> The issue regarding exhibition design is widely ignored and 
>> misunderstood, since the display designer’s work is often confused 
>> with the curator’s or the artist’s. This stems from the fact that 
>> some exhibition designers also can be artists, architects, decorators 
>> or interior designers. The misconception surrounding exhibition 
>> designers can also be explained by the fact that they can 
>> simultaneously be theater-set designers, working for art and science 
>> museums, private galleries, biennials and professional shows. The 
>> task itself seems difficult to define since it varies from hanging 
>> paintings in a row (as seen in large museums) to putting up a few 
>> nails in a gallery. The work could go completely unnoticed, while 
>> some display designers including Robert Wilson, Philippe Starck or 
>> Jean Nouvel are recognized as major creators.
>> However, exhibition display has existed for a long time, at least 
>> since art has been shown outside its original context. This is why, 
>> since the creation of the “Salon officiel” set in France (at the end 
>> of the 17th century), one of the curators’ main functions was to 
>> display art pieces in such a way that they relate to each other thus 
>> proposing a certain order to the visitors. At first, this approach 
>> was not necessarily related to “aesthetics” but followed academic and 
>> genres priorities and other rules of etiquette. At first, curators 
>> were Academy members; later on however, during the whole existence of 
>> the Salon, it was the artists themselves who arranged exhibitions 
>> display. Artists as different as Chardin, Renoir, Matisse or Léger 
>> occasionally played this role at the salons [1].
>> The “Golden Era” of exhibition design was during the 1920’s and 30’s, 
>> when many museums were reorganized and the first museums of modern 
>> art came into existence.
>> Many of the modern art protagonists of the time were involved, 
>> Alexander Dorner, Alfred Barr, René d’Harnoncourt, Louis Hautecœur, 
>> El Lissitzky, Herbert Bayer or Frederick Kiesler... Lissitzky 
>> summarized pretty well the passage regarding wall set-up within the 
>> arrangement of the whole space: “One doesn’t look at the space 
>> through a keyhole, nor through an open door. The space is not only 
>> meant for the eyes, it is not a painting: one wants to live within”. 
>> He also added that it was an odd experience, “a genuine and moving 
>> experience” that could not be reduced to a sole instant. “During an 
>> exhibition, one strolls around. This is the reason why the space 
>> should be planned in a way to allow visitors to move around freely. 
>> He explained how important it was that the public physically react to 
>> the pieces shown in the exhibition [2] ”. During the same period and 
>> with a similar commitment of “involving” the visitors, Frederick 
>> Kiesler perfected several systems of displaying paintings that he 
>> called “vision machines”.
>> These machines allowed visitors to adjust the height of images and 
>> objects, (consequently modifying the “whole cohesion” of the 
>> exhibition [3] ). Other display designers incorporated the concept of 
>> “physiological” factors in the disposition of the space. This is the 
>> case of Herbert Bayer, whose “limitations of the field of vision” 
>> diagrams meant to define the “conditions of the visit” from a 
>> “scientific” and “deterministic” point of view. He explains that “an 
>> exhibition… paintings… or photographs, are only a part… of new and 
>> complex means of communication. A particular theme in an exhibition… 
>> should penetrate and move the visitor inside. It should… lead him to 
>> a direct and pre-planned reaction [4] ”.
>> Recently, the question about the limits between the artist’s 
>> involvement and the exhibition designer’s has been debated. Would the 
>> way that light is projected on a work of art be part of the design? 
>> Should the artist decide on the color of the walls, the choice of 
>> furniture, the labels and information signs? Louis Marin accurately 
>> remarked that: “displaying works of art is not a minor task unrelated 
>> with the art, but the continuity of the production of the work of 
>> art; the term of production - to bring, to move the work of art 
>> “forward”- implies that art display ought to be recognized as a full 
>> part of the art [5] ”. Installations shows are obvious and common 
>> illustrations of this type of problems. The work of art and its 
>> design are often overlapping and become almost identical. For 
>> example, during the 1999 Venice Biennial, a video installation by 
>> Scottish artist Douglas Gordon showed the same two scenes of Taxi 
>> Driver in a loop slightly unsynchronized on two opposite walls of a 
>> room. Obviously this was not a screening of Martin Scorsese’s film 
>> Taxi Driver, but rather a creation based on a “re-interpretation” and 
>> a different display of the same film. Many similar examples could be 
>> found. Actually, some site specific works tend to be practically 
>> inseparable from their design. The only elements that eventually 
>> escape being part of the work of art would be the “labels”, 
>> “information signs” and “paths” of access, the light and the 
>> architecture of the site.
>> Problems caused by transforming pieces that were not conceived to be 
>> shown in the field of fine arts are quite different: literature, 
>> sound pieces, films, performances, Internet sites… and to a lesser 
>> extent some forms of non-western art, design, graphics, architecture, 
>> etc…Then, the vocation of exhibition designers becomes the creation 
>> of pieces to be exhibited. In literature, it means isolating text 
>> fragments, creating reading lounges or public readings; in 
>> architecture, it could be working on “representations”, sketches, 
>> plans, photographs, models, prototypes, synthesized image animations, 
>> etc… In performing arts, sketches, photos, recordings or even 
>> performances and concerts are often programmed in the exhibition 
>> space, or close to the space. The case of non-western arts or 
>> “applied arts” is somehow different since it implies choosing between 
>> a “documentary” approach (movies, photos, documents, lectures, etc…) 
>> and an “aesthetic” approach (setting up objects on stands, isolation, 
>> light set up). These “adaptations” are implying that an exhibition 
>> cannot be planned without a “pre-definition” of the objects to be 
>> exhibited. Moreover, some of the objects needing to be adapted to an 
>> exhibition format are sometimes “re-invented for the occasion”. 
>> Recently the development of “reading spaces” within the exhibitions 
>> -for example, at the Palais de Tokyo – shows the need to constantly 
>> generate new ways accessing contemporary art. This is a crucial issue 
>> in the case of interactive creations; creations which are usually 
>> more “hands-on” than “meant to be exhibited” in the traditional sense.
>> In recent years, exhibition designers’ most prevalent problem in the 
>> context of their task in contemporary art exhibits is related to 
>> films or videos presentations. One of the main challenges is the 
>> length of the show: while movie theaters are adapted to feature 
>> films, art shows are not. Françoise Parfait questions: “How is it 
>> possible to stand in an open space watching an half an hour monoband 
>> screening (the audience not having any clue about the duration of the 
>> film) when it is primordial to watch the whole film from the 
>> beginning in order to grasp its meaning? Should we propose video 
>> rooms or viewing lounges in museums and art centers [6]? ”. ” This 
>> issue became critical during Kassel’s latest Documenta (in 2002) when 
>> hundreds of hours of video projection were presented (it was 
>> virtually impossible to sit through them all). How can one have a 
>> satisfactory level of concentration when the projection is drowned in 
>> the middle of the “flow” of an exhibition? How could the problem of 
>> sound interference be solved when several videos are screened 
>> simultaneously? Most probably, these issues initiated the 
>> introduction of expressions such as “exhibition cinema” or “installed 
>> cinema” to label some cinema styles foreign to a more “classical” 
>> cinema presentation that could only be achieved via contemporary art 
>> shows. The issue of animated images exhibitions highlights the way 
>> relations are managed - relations between works of art and the public 
>> as well as relations between members of the public. In fact, “an 
>> exhibition (…) is an installation setting-up things and people in a 
>> same place [7] ”. The space is not only organized around the art 
>> works, but also to meet the public needs in order to ensure a most 
>> satisfactory visit. During the 19th century, visiting large 
>> exhibitions , such as at the Salon’s, meant putting up with dreadful 
>> conditions which were a permanent source of ironic comments in the 
>> press of the time; it is not the case now, with an increased number 
>> of lounges, audio-guides, cafeterias and souvenir shops showing an 
>> on-going concern to optimize the experience.
>> Two points have been raised regarding visitors’ remarks and the ways 
>> to “utilize” the exhibition. The first refers to the fact that while 
>> studying visitors “habits”, it becomes necessary to “model” their 
>> journey. Thus, since the 1920’s, specific studies have been conducted 
>> to determine the optimum quantity of works of art to show and the 
>> best placement for them in the space provided. These studies showed 
>> that visitors behavior varied in a relatively “predictable” way, 
>> according to the background, the type of exhibition, the room layout, 
>> the paths proposed, the number of objects, etc., something that 
>> doesn’t go without consequences on the exhibition design [8] . The 
>> second point derives from the first and is a more “critical” one. It 
>> has been made by media-historian Jonathan Crary and is related to the 
>> fact that visitors of an exhibition are usually “observers”, in the 
>> sense that they “observe”, they “respect”- rules, codes, instructions 
>> and uses that are imposed. Crary thinks that: “ Evident as it may 
>> seem, a person who sees -an observer- is above all, a person who sees 
>> within the frame of a pre-determined range of possibilities, a person 
>> who is inscribed within a system of conventions and limits”. As 
>> announced by a text distributed at the entrance of the 1901 
>> “Pan-American” Exhibition: “We are asking you to remember that once 
>> you cross the threshold, you are a part of the exhibition [9] ”.
>> The issue surrounding the value of the design of an exhibition has 
>> often been raised over the last forty years as it became obvious that 
>> these designs project a “sense” and various curators started claiming 
>> authorship over specific designs as expression of their “artistic 
>> creation”. A creative “set-up” could actually bring significant 
>> changes over to a work of art (or a collection of works of art). A 
>> painting by Manet positioned next to a painting by Velasquez develops 
>> consequences on their “readings [10] . An exhibition design is a 
>> largely subjective exercise based on permanent de-composition and 
>> re-composition”. It is never neutral: Éric Troncy chose to exhibit a 
>> naked woman photographed by Helmut Newton next to a plaster Virgin by 
>> Katarina Fritzsch or a Bernard Buffet’s painting in front of a mural 
>> by Sol Lewitt thus provoking some critics’ despair [11] . The 
>> “relations” between works of art are defined by the exhibition 
>> designer and highlight their specific “comprehensions” inherent in 
>> their design itself. Is it possible to keep intact the memory of such 
>> meaningful juxtapositions? As early as the 1930’s, the MoMA began 
>> exhibiting images and documents related to certain “historical” 
>> exhibition designs, regardless of their status [12] ”. More recently, 
>> and soon after the 1970’s, some display techniques have been 
>> re-created within the exhibitions. That was the case for “Paris-New 
>> York” (1977) and “Paris-Paris” (1981). A large number of recent 
>> exhibitions have followed this trend, notably the “Dada” exhibition 
>> wherein one found an approximate re-construction of the Picabia show 
>> at Dalmau Gallery in Barcelona and also another (also approximate) 
>> re-construction of the First Berlin International Dada Fair (1920) 
>> were launched. In fact, exhibition design has become a “genre” of its 
>> own: in 1989 at the “Stationen der Moderne” exhibition at the 
>> Berlinische Galerie in Berlin, up to twenty historical German 
>> exhibitions were re-created [13] .
>> Jérôme Glicenstein
>> Paris, May 4th, 2006
>> Notes :
>> [1] For a general history of the Salon, see Gérard-Georges Lemaire, 
>> Histoire du salon de peinture, Paris, Klincksieck, coll. Etudes, 2004.
>> http://www.klincksieck.com/accueil.html
>> [2] Many works on Lissitzky have been published. His main reference 
>> is Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers’s book, El Lissitzky : Life, Letters, 
>> Texts (1967), New York, Thames & Hudson. 1992.
>> http://www.abebooks.com
>> [3] Among the well-documented catalogues on Frederick Kiesler, see 
>> specifically, Frederick Kiesler artiste-architecte (under Chantal 
>> Béret’s supervision). This book was published for the exhibition CNAC 
>> - Georges Pompidou , Paris, Editions du Centre Pompidou, 1996.
>> http://www.cnac-gp.fr/
>> [4] Regarding Herbert Bayer, see in particular, Alexander Dorner, The 
>> Way Beyond “Art” – The Work of Herbert Bayer, New York, Wittenborn, 
>> Schultz, Inc., 1947.
>> http://www.questia.com/
>> [5] See Fabrice Hergott, « Réponses au questionnaire “Accrocher une 
>> œuvre d’art” », in Cahiers du MNAM n°17/18, « L’œuvre d’art et son 
>> accrochage », Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1986, p. 207.
>> [6] Françoise Parfait, Video : un art contemporain, Paris, Regard, 
>> 2001, p. 170.
>> http://www.editions-du-regard.com/regard/essais.html
>> [7] Claquemurer pour ainsi dire tout l’univers. La mise en exposition 
>> (under the direction of Jean Davallon), Paris, MNAM/CCI, coll. alors 
>> :, 1986, p. 205.
>> [8] See, for example: Publics et Musées n°8, « Études de publics, 
>> années 30 », Lyon, PUL, July-December 1995.
>> http://presses.univ-lyon2.fr/article.php3?id_article=19&id_livre=194
>> [9] Jonathan Crary, L’art de l’observateur. Vision et modernité au 
>> XIXe siècle (trad. F.Maurin), Nîmes, Jacqueline Chambon, coll. Rayon 
>> photo, 1994 (original edition: Cambridge, MIT, 1990), p. 26.
>> http://fr.bookbutler.com/
>> http://books.google.com/
>> [10] This is the topic of Victoria Newhouse’s book, Art and the Power 
>> of Placement, New York, The Monacelli Press, 2005.
>> http://www.rochester.edu/in_visible_culture/Reviews/MGreview.html
>> http://www.amazon.com/Art-Power-Placement/dp/product-description/1580931480 
>> [11] Daniel Buren, “Where are the Artists”, in The Next Documenta 
>> Should Be Curated by an Artist, June-November 2003; available at 
>> http://www.e-flux.com..
>> http://www.e-flux.com/projects/next_doc/d_buren_printable.html
>> [12] Concerning this topic, see, in particular, Mary Anne 
>> Staniszewski’s book, The Power of Display. A History of Exhibition 
>> Installations at the Museum of Modern Art, Cambridge Ma-London, MIT 
>> Press, 1998.
>> http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=8169
>> [13] Stationen der Moderne. Die bedeutenden Kunstausstellungen des 
>> 20. Jahrhunderts in Deutschland, Berlin, Berlinische Galerie, 1988.
>> http://www.berlinische-galerie.de
>> Jérôme Glicenstein’s biography:
>> Jérôme Glicenstein is an artist and Associate Professor in Fine Arts 
>> at Paris University (Saint-Denis).
>> His lectures and his field of research deal with theories and 
>> practices of exhibitions. In addition, he is in charge of a 
>> university gallery and of the cycle of exhibitions “ To place/to 
>> displace” at the Saint-Denis Museum of Art and History.
>> He is also a regular collaborator for various magazines, in 
>> particular la Revue d’Esthétique and directs the magazine Marges.
>> He published various articles on the relations between art and the 
>> new media.
>> Publications to come:
>> « Dispositif », in Dictionnaire du corps (sld. Michela Marzano), 
>> Paris, PUF, 2006.
>> « L’art contemporain peut-il être populaire ? Remarques à propos de 
>> Nuit blanche », Revue d’Esthétique n°46, 2006.
>> « From Spectator to Actor: Experiments in the Gallery of Paris8 », in 
>> Proceedings of the XIXth Congress of IAEA (sld Jean-Christophe 
>> Vilatte), Avignon, IAEA, 2006.
>> Main recent publications:
>> « Internet — Sites d’artistes », Encyclopædia Universalis (CD-Rom), 
>> Paris, 2000.
>> http://www.universalis.fr/
>> « Le paysage panoptique d’Internet. Remarques à partir de Jeremy 
>> Bentham », Revue d’Esthétique n°39, Paris, Jean-Michel Place, 2001, 
>> p. 97-115.
>> http://www.jeanmichelplace.com/fr/revues/detail.cfm?ProduitID=1114&ProduitCode=7# 
>> « Statistiques, rumeurs et anarchie », Parpaings n°25, 2001, p. 21-22.
>> http://www.jeanmichelplace.com/
>> « Le Guggenheim Virtuel », dans http://www.mudam.lu (sld Claude 
>> Closky), musée Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg, 2002.
>> http://www.mudam.lu
>> « Qu’attendez-vous du Palais de Tokyo ? », l’Info Noir/Blanc n°23, 2002.
>> http://www.caap.asso.fr/spip.php?rubrique2
>> « Le Palais de Tokyo : un “cinéma de situations” », Revue 
>> d’Esthétique n°42, Paris, Jean-Michel Place, 2003.
>> http://www.jeanmichelplace.com/fr/revues/detail.cfm?ProduitID=628&ProduitCode=7 
>> « La muséologie d’Internet : quelques remarques à propos du 
>> Guggenheim Virtuel », dans L’art à l’époque du virtuel (sld Christine 
>> Buci-Glucksman), Paris, L’Harmattan, coll.Arts8, 2003.
>> http://www.editions-harmattan.fr/
>> « Changer de convictions ou changer de rôle ? Remarques à partir 
>> d’une enquête menée par le Site de création contemporaine du Palais 
>> de Tokyo », dans Art : changer de conviction (sld Jacques Morizot), 
>> Paris, L’Harmattan, coll. Arts8, 2004.
>> http://www.editions-harmattan.fr/
>> « La création artistique contemporaine face aux nouveaux médias », 
>> dans Arts plastiques et nouvelles technologies, Saint-Denis, Musée 
>> d’art et d’histoire, 2004.
>> « Quelques remarques à propos de Matrix », Revue d’Esthétique n°45, 
>> Paris, Jean-Michel Place, 2004.
>> http://www.jeanmichelplace.com/fr/revues/detail.cfm?ProduitID=1114&ProduitCode=7 
>> « Le commissaire d’exposition entre auteur et interprète », Dossier 
>> signature n°57, Montréal, Esse arts+opinions, 2006.
>> http://www.esse.ca/fr/sommaire_ar.php?no=57
>> Author’s recommendation / Current events:
>> Exhibition: Architects' Exhibition Designs
>> 115 European exhibitions designed by architects
>> 7/7/2006 > 22/10/2006
>> Pavillon de l'Arsenal
>> 24 bld. Morland
>> 75004 Paris France
>> http://www.pavillon-arsenal.com/en/expositions/thema_modele.php?id_exposition=175 
>> http://www.pavillon-arsenal.com/img/exposition/175/cp/PAV_175_CP.pdf
>> Translation: Kristine Barut Dreuilhe
>> Original version:
>> La mise en scène des œuvres d’art. Remarques à propos de la 
>> scénographie d’exposition.
>> http://www.pourinfos.org/
>> ---------------
>> All text is available under the French license Creative Commons :
>> non-commercial attribution – no derived work. 2.0. In order to 
>> encourage a free pedagogic or associative usage.
>> http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/fr/
>> --pourinfos.org
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>> Direction de la publication
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>> http://www.pourinfos.org
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cahen.x at levels9.com
Paris France

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