Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

Posts Tagged ‘reinstallation

Summer Exhibitions

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LACMA

LACMA’s near acre of new exhibition space, the Resnick Pavilion, means LACMA has a lot of exhibitions to program.  And they seem up to the task.  After the three inaugural shows (Olmec, Fashion, and Eye for the Sensual), LACMA has managed to keep the Resnick Pavilion at full capacity.  There are three shows currently in the space: David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy, Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts, and LACMA’s ticketed blockbuster: Tim Burton.  The shows keep with Michael Govan’s strategy for offering unrelated coinciding shows in the Resnick Pavilion.

Across from the Resnick Pavilion, is Renzo Piano’s other LACMA building, BCAM; it too has been kept full. The top floor is still stocked with Broadworks, the second floor is being deinstalled from the recent permanent collection show Human Nature, and the ground floor just had one of the massive Serra sculptures deinstalled, to make room for a new Burden work, which is going to be AWESOME.

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Home for the Holidays

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Art Institute of Chicago

Lances and chainmail have a lot to do with the holidays…

So I know, the holidays are over, and I missed this occasion slightly, but I still wanted to dish briefly, mostly to focus on the massive amounts of advertising the Art Institute did for this campaign.  If you’ve walked in the Loop past a vacant storefront building, you’ve surely seen the massive ads about what’s going on at the Art Institute for the holidays.  Or if you’ve been in a subway car recently you might have noticed.  You know how sometimes a single advertiser will buy out all the ad space in an entire subway car? You could be in a car with only blackberry ads and find yourself really needing the ability to BBM.  Well the Art institute did the same; one night I found myself overwhelmed with ads about something going on at the Art Institute called “Home for the Holidays”—there was even ads for it on the ceiling of the subway car.

Ads on the red line.

The “Home for the Holidays” campaign was a concise (cost effective?) way of promoting several new things at the museum rolled into one campaign.  Those things being: 1-the wreathing of the lions, 2 – the decorating of the Thorne Miniature rooms in holiday décor, 3 – the reinstallation of Chagall’s American Windows, and 4 – the installation of the museum collection of arms and amour.  And although Chagall’s stained-glass windows aren’t so holiday themed, they sure reek of holiday spirit compared to suits of armor and battle axes.

The curtains match the drapes (the ads match the wreaths)—it’s called branding.

The wreathing of the lions is a tradition now in its nineteenth year.  Last year (2009) the Art Institute mixed tradition up a bit and had a design firm create contemporary wreaths for the lions.  This year, the museum commissioned the Chicago-based firm Materious to design the lions’ holiday garb: giant cranberry wreathes. The rich pinks and reds are a strong punctuation on snow-filled Michigan Ave.  (The wreaths also light up at night, and are solar-powered, oh hey!) The wreaths look a whole lot better than what they do to the lions when any local sports team wins a championship, and a whole lot better than the shoddy decorations over at the Field.  Also notice how the wreaths match the graphics in the “Home for the Holidays” ad campaign.

Word doesn’t recognize the word “dreidel,” is word being anti-Semitic?

Be prepared to be underwhelmed with the holiday decoration of the Thorne Rooms.  (Full disclosure, I’ve always disliked the Thorne Rooms, but I know that a lot of people love them.)  Only a measly six of the rooms were decorated this year; the museum says it’s going to make this a tradition so eventually maybe all the rooms will be dressed up. The decorations are tiny (duh) but also very hard to see, the English Victorian Era room has a Christmas tree, and someone decided the rich people who own the midcentury modern California room are Jewish.

Smells like holiday spirit.

The Chagall windows really did come “Home for the Holidays;” they haven’t been seen for five years during the construction of the Modern Wing.  The museum also organized a small exhibition about the legacy of public art in Chicago with models and projects to accompany the windows’ return. The windows also went in for some heavy cleaning, shown in the video below.

The other things that came home (for the holidays) was a selection of the museum’s George F. Harding Jr. Arms and Armor Collection.  The installation is complete with a fully-armed knight on horseback, massive tapestries, and cannon.  While this installation has nothing to do with the holidays (come on, you know it doesn’t), the wall text gives a hint about to exciting things.  It reads: “This temporary installation of arms and armor […] Plans are underway for a larger permanent installation […] This new gallery will be part of a series of galleries that feature the museum’s important collection of medieval and Renaissance Art.”  Clearly some large-scale reinstallations are afoot at the Art Institute, ones that are probably going to affect large portions of its well-loved and loved-to-be-seen permanent collection of European art.  I wonder how this will affect the museum in the coming years.

Nothing says “Merry Christmas!” like a medieval battleaxe.

– H.I.

P.S. This story piqued my interest today.  Starting in June, the Art Institute is getting rid of its free Thursday evening hours, quoting low attendance as a factor.  Ahem, I have class on Thursday evenings across the street and know that the line to get in wraps around the building.  Okay, I’ll be fair: the museum spokesperson said not enough Chicago residents were coming on those evenings and that it was mostly out-of-towners. AKA people the museum wants visiting during regular hours and paying full ticket price.  “Taking free hours off the table was never an option,” said a spokeswoman—well legally you can’t (all museums in Chicago are required to offer 52 free days), so don’t pretend like you do this out of the goodness of your heart.

P.P.S  I’m on break in LA, so expect a full report from the West Coast in upcoming posts.

Permanent Collection – Korean Galleries Reinstallation

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Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art recently opened their new display of the museum’s permanent collection of Korean art.  The new space, on the plaza level of the Hammer Building,  is the largest space devoted to the display of Korean art outside Korea.  The museum used the existing space (which was previously used for temporary exhibition), and made only small changes to the architecture.  The space still exists as a cycle of rooms which are easy and pleasing to traverse.

After entering the double doors of the gallery you are greeted by an opening in the wall, which has been flanked by traditional paper windows, which are opened like shutters.

Highlighting loan pieces

Highlighting loan pieces

The space showcases a loan piece: The Pensive Bodhisattva, which which is graciously being loaned from the National Museum of Korea.  Also in the entry room is an approachable wall text which introduces briefly the historic periods of Korea that the works on display come from.  It also explains that the galleries are organized thematically versus by time period or by region.  This reminded me of the way the Getty Villa organizes its galleries, which I think they do successfully.  On the left side of the entry way there is a large blown-up photograph of a Korean temple, if front of which is a long bench.

Room with a view

Room with a view

The galleries had the same cement floors that previously existed in the space, except in the entry room where new luscious hardwood floors have been installed.  The walls were all a very clean white, which when inspected closer were not painted, but actually crisp rice paper.

The first room had just one object in it: a beautiful painted map of Korea.  The map is also a loan piece, but when it was displayed by itself it served as a nice way to introduce the artistic region of Korea.  Already it was obvious that the loan pieces were being displayed with great respect, and were highlighted throughout the exhibition.  The National Museum of Korea loaned LACMA a selection of 26 artworks for the opening of these galleries.

The second room focus was on painting.  The dimly-lit rooms felt warm dispute the cold cement floors and simple wood benches allowed the visitors to sit down and appreciate the paintings. Large landscapes were displayed on one wall, vertical hanging scrolls on another, and large scale portraits on the far wall.  The way the paintings were displayed in correlation to one another I though was done in a very interesting way.  There seemed to be an effort to not display things in a way that involved symmetry or balance.

Painting gallery – screens & scrolls
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Painting gallery – screens & scrolls

The two landscapes were unbalanced, the hanging scrolls purposely hung to deny bilateral symmetry, and the portraits seemed to be hung left to right in descending order.  On the fourth wall of this room was a display case with smaller scale paintings.  The paintings inside presented a variety of the ways painting could be mounted, on silk, on paper, and even on long scrolls.  A video screen even showed the entire scroll in the case unrolled.  This video was only one of many in the galleries. The didactic videos never had sound and only short snippets of text to read.  In the paintings room there was a video which showed how brush paintings are made and focused on showing technique.

A Queen’s screen

A Queen’s screen

The next room had several areas.  In the first area was displayed the “Women’s Quarters.” This area featured several painted screens which were conveniently displayed on the ground and on angles, to show how the screens actually functioned.  Also in this room were glorious glass display cases containing luxury objects.  Some cases featured only one object and some contained several objects that had similar utilitarian uses. The cases were themselves beautiful modern art objects glittering in their brand-spanking-newness.  The cases were designed by One O One Architects, and fuse contemporary look with traditional Korean materials.

Utilitarian treasures

Utilitarian treasures

On the other side of the room more display cases contained a slew of objects like ceramics, tiles, and hats.  I found the hats particularly interesting because they seemed to be the exact hats that were worn by some of the men in the portraits from the previous painting room.  It was an excellent curatorial choice to display the actual objects is such close proximity to the painted versions.  You had to go back into the painting room to continue on to other rooms, so the comparison and recognition of the objects in the portraits was unavoidable.

I just saw that hat

I just saw that hat

The next thematic room was what I assumed was the religion room.  The room featured sculpture and painting.  A longer video ran on another small discrete monitor which informed in a very subtle way the motifs and subject matter of Korean religious art.  The inclusion of both painting and sculpture was very clever as it invited comparisons about the way the same subject, themes, and story are depicted in various mediums.  Two sculptures were displayed side by side, and a formal comparison of metal and wooden sculpture was displayed.

Religious images, in wood and gold

Religious images, in wood and gold

Then it was onto to see the star of the exhibition, the loan piece of The Pensive Bodhisattva.  The piece is here in America for only a few weeks, and when you view it, you will know why Korea wants it back so quickly.  The sculpture is a masterpiece of the late sixth century.  The gilt-bronze Bodhisattva was cast in a now lost technique, and is uncommonly large in scale.  I noticed that there were cushions or pads in the room.  They were left there after a ceremony in which monks came and blessed the galleries.  The curators decided to leave the pads there for viewers to meditate on.  Or a viewer can simple walk around the Korean treasure and enjoy it in the round.

National Treasure: “The Pensive Bodhisattva”

National Treasure: “The Pensive Bodhisattva”

After this bright room was a dark room which featured works organized thematically around the art of the literati.  Brushes and small works of calligraphy were displayed in one case.  I did not stay long in this room because I was quickly courted on into the next room due to the fact that it was flooded with natural light.

Most beautiful room in LACMA

Most beautiful room in LACMA

I’m not used to seeing natural light flood the space of a gallery, which is only one of the reasons why the ceramics room was such a treat.  The exhibition designers decided to remove the existing wall, and exposed the large floor-to-ceiling windows that were behind the wall.  In front of the window are five large ceramic vessels; behind them through the windows is the green of the bark and large planter boxes full of bamboo.  This room might be the most beautiful room I’ve ever seen in an art museum.

Color-categorized ceramics

Color-categorized ceramics

The display cases in this room were organized by type of ceramic.  So in one case would be only blue and white ceramics made from Kaolin, in another would be only the jade-tone Punchong ceramics, and in another would be a collection of rich green celadon glazed ware.  One case in this room also displayed a collection of lacquer boxes. All of them were ornately decorated in mother-of-pearl inlay.  With all of these cases in the room the small differences were what matter, so in the lacquer boxes only small differences in decorative motif separated the boxes.  The close inspection required to viewer to really look closely at the works on display.

Celedon glazed ware & Turquoise inlay lacquer boxes

Celedon glazed ware & Turquoise inlay lacquer boxes

In the last room was a really innovative installation of objects.  The narrow hall forces a reflection between the grid-like contemporary painting with an innovative display case of ceramic shards.  The shards are a selection from LACMA’s 850 piece Asakawa-Henderson Korean Ceramic Shard Collection.  The collection was created by two Japanese researchers during the 1910’s and ‘20s.  According to the exhibition’s press release, “LACMA is the only institution outside Korea and Japan to hold such a comprehensive collection.”  The shards are displayed in a long case in a color-coded grid.  The accompanying map is the key to the map, where different colors signify Korea’s eight main provincial regions.  The educational tool is functional and really beautiful; a truly innovative way to communicate information to a museum’s public while still being aesthetically pleasing.

Asakawa-Henderson Korean Ceramic Shard Collection

Asakawa-Henderson Korean Ceramic Shard Collection

The reinstallation as a whole is very beautiful, and not just because it is new.  It shows that permanent collections can be displayed in creative ways that aren’t too theatrical or zany (like LAMCA’s Pardo-design Pre-Columbian galleries).  The new display also proves that education can be displayed in a non-distracting way, and that giving the viewer to freedom to choose his or her level of engagement with the educational materials really is the best way to do it.  I can’t wait to return to these galleries, because they are now my favorite in Los Angeles.

Comparison installation

Comparison installation

– H.I.