Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Cloud nine

With so many artists acting as curators and a number of curators thinking they might even be artists, it was interesting to see an exhibition where artist and curator combined to present the work. We've talked before about the Magritte show, Magritte and contemporary art: the treachery of images, at the Los Angeles County Museum. It was a knock out. For a start the collection of Magrittes was incredible and unlikely to be brought together again for a long time. There was also a good attempt to place some contemporary work in the context of Magritte’s influence – not so successful, but some stunning work.

What made this exhibition so memorable was the addition of artist John Baldessari onto the exhibition team. As you can see from the photographs Baldessari carpeted the whole exhibition with a custom made cloud scape and papered the ceiling with photographs of the LA freeway system. It was the sort of bravura gesture that only a great artist could get away with. He literally turned the gallery on its head. Let’s face it, if a curator had come up with this idea all hell would have broken loose. So why don’t more curators involve artists in the display of art works? Seeing Jeff Koons bronze life raft sitting on cloud carpet is one of the most astonishingly thought provoking sights we have seen in an art gallery. It is obvious to anyone who has been going to exhibitions over the last ten years or so that most the designers (and all to often they are designers) of our exhibitions don’t have a clue how to energise an exhibition space. The fact is that artists can bring a creative approach to exhibition design that is missing from most of the exhibitions we see. At the very least it’s worth a try.
Photo: LACMA, Peter Brenner