[NetBehaviour] pourinfos.org [apostils] : Displaying works of art. Some remarks about exhibition design. |Jerome Glicenstein|
geert at nznl.com
Thu Sep 28 22:14:26 CEST 2006
Show me :)
On 28/09/2006, at 4:43 PM, xavier cahen wrote:
> 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://
> Is it really black and cube ? mine is gray, flat and square...
>> On 28/09/2006, at 11:12 AM, xavier cahen wrote:
>>> [apostils] [apostils] [apostils] [apostils] [apostils] [apostils]
>>> 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 .
>>> 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  ”. 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  ). 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  ”.
>>> 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  ”. 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 ? ”. ” 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  ”. 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  . 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  ”.
>>> 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
>>>  . 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  .
>>> 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  ”. 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  .
>>> Jérôme Glicenstein
>>> Paris, May 4th, 2006
>>> Notes :
>>>  For a general history of the Salon, see Gérard-Georges
>>> Lemaire, Histoire du salon de peinture, Paris, Klincksieck, coll.
>>> Etudes, 2004.
>>>  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.
>>>  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.
>>>  Regarding Herbert Bayer, see in particular, Alexander Dorner,
>>> The Way Beyond “Art” – The Work of Herbert Bayer, New York,
>>> Wittenborn, Schultz, Inc., 1947.
>>>  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.
>>>  Françoise Parfait, Video : un art contemporain, Paris,
>>> Regard, 2001, p. 170.
>>>  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.
>>>  See, for example: Publics et Musées n°8, « Études de publics,
>>> années 30 », Lyon, PUL, July-December 1995.
>>>  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.
>>>  This is the topic of Victoria Newhouse’s book, Art and the
>>> Power of Placement, New York, The Monacelli Press, 2005.
>>>  Daniel Buren, “Where are the Artists”, in The Next Documenta
>>> Should Be Curated by an Artist, June-November 2003; available at
>>>  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.
>>>  Stationen der Moderne. Die bedeutenden Kunstausstellungen
>>> des 20. Jahrhunderts in Deutschland, Berlin, Berlinische Galerie,
>>> 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.
>>> « Le paysage panoptique d’Internet. Remarques à partir de Jeremy
>>> Bentham », Revue d’Esthétique n°39, Paris, Jean-Michel Place,
>>> 2001, p. 97-115.
>>> « Statistiques, rumeurs et anarchie », Parpaings n°25, 2001, p.
>>> « Le Guggenheim Virtuel », dans http://www.mudam.lu (sld Claude
>>> Closky), musée Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg, 2002.
>>> « Qu’attendez-vous du Palais de Tokyo ? », l’Info Noir/Blanc n°
>>> 23, 2002.
>>> « Le Palais de Tokyo : un “cinéma de situations” », Revue
>>> d’Esthétique n°42, Paris, Jean-Michel Place, 2003.
>>> « 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.
>>> « 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.
>>> « 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.
>>> « Le commissaire d’exposition entre auteur et interprète »,
>>> Dossier signature n°57, Montréal, Esse arts+opinions, 2006.
>>> 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
>>> Translation: Kristine Barut Dreuilhe
>>> Original version:
>>> La mise en scène des œuvres d’art. Remarques à propos de la
>>> scénographie d’exposition.
>>> 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.
>>> XAVIER CAHEN
>>> Direction de la publication
>>> xavier.cahen at pourinfos.org
>>> NetBehaviour mailing list
>>> NetBehaviour at netbehaviour.org
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