Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Coming out

Has any new art museum (or indeed any art museum that has just undergone a rebuild) ever failed to tell its audience that it will now be making its collections more available through open storage? And do they ever do it? That would be a no. 

Sure, the idea of 'open hang' was been tried a few times by putting a lot of the collection up on a rotating basis. And sometimes, when institutions are opening or closing their buildings, they try to make a big splash by hanging virtually everything from the collection at the same time. And yet whatever they do the back rooms, and the mystery that surrounds them, remain out-of-bounds except for the odd special tour and prowling photographers who are regularly drawn to the stored collections as their subject matter. 

On Sunday at the Dowse Art Museum we saw a small light shining on this ‘hidden’ storeroom dilemma. Simple solution really. They just hauled some of the storage cabinets out of the storeroom and into the gallery spaces complete with the objects stacked and packed inside. It might be a bit odd for the makers of these objects to see them presented like this wrapped, collared and rolled, but people were intrigued and looking hard.  It was a back room experience without having to get into that back room.

A next step? How about asking people to note things they spot in the cabinets they’d like a better look at and make a small exhibition of them. With exhibition budgets at an all time low we figure your going to be a lot more of this work-that-collection activity.