Art exhibitions, a plural work

Monday 30th November was the culmination of the course, “History of exhibitions. Beyond the ideology of the white cube”, that began at the Macba on 19th October, and that two of us, the technical staff of the Museu Picasso, have followed.

One of the aims of the course was to take a trip through the history of exhibitions, more than just that of singular works of art. Based on the definition of an exhibition as “a perceptive disposition in itself, a machine for seeing, and an act of learning”, artists, critics and curators, have reflected on seven exhibitions from the second half of the 20th century that marked a change in the way of presenting works of art within a space, and therefore the way of looking at them.

If it can be said that it is often considered that to study art is to know its history, by means of movements and successive isms, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the way of exhibiting a work of art can be determinant in terms of what it wants to transmit. Therefore, many of the exhibitions spoken about affected not only how they were presented, but also the way that the works of art, and in many cases the artists, related between each other, resulting, on many occasions, in a new way of expressing themselves, and showing the public what they wanted to communicate.

From the chambers of wonders or cabinets of curiosities of the 18th and 19th centuries to the present day, the concept of exhibitions has evolved to the point that, if the works of art and the discourse they articulate are the protagonists, then the space, the artists, the curator and the architect, among others, take on a more than relevant role.

On some occasions the reality of the space determines the creative moment and the execution of the work, in such a way that the exhibition space and the work exhibited make up a whole in which the lack of either of them deprives the sense of the other. On other occasions, the creative process itself takes on greater significance than the resulting work.

These are some of the most relevant aspects that have been dealt with during the sessions, although there were many other particularities in each of them.

We at the museum are aware of the importance of attending conferences such as these, but despite the fact that our work is, partly, “to do exhibitions”, we can always find different views, and know the experiences of some of their protagonists. We therefore understand that the participation in these initiatives is very enriching to the extent that they propose new spaces of debate and reflection not only in the field of exhibitions, but also about the artistic environment in general and all the agents that participate.

In the website of Macba you can download the texts of the course in PDF.

Anna Vélez and Isabel Cendoya
Depts. of Preventive Conservation and Exhibitions

Which exhibition of 2009 would you recommend to a friend? Which art exhibition from any time and/or space do you remember as particularly noteworthy?

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