Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On with the show

The artist Giuseppe Ghezzi was probably also one of the first art exhibition curator/installers in the world. In 1676 when an exhibition was needed in to celebrate the miraculous arrival in Loretto of the House of Nazareth, the word went out, “Get Giuseppe.” Ghezzi immediately got to it and borrowed an exhibition’s worth of privately owned works by Venetian masters to exhibit in the cloisters of San Salvatore in Rome. It was Ghezzi who also gave us what might be the first ever list of things to remember when you are putting together an art exhibition.

1. Sufficient quantities of damask are to be hired as soon as possible.
2. Use damask to cover existing gaps in the church fa├žade.
3. Use tapestries to cover rough brick facades.
4. Remember size is of chief concern when borrowing pictures.
5. Try to produce a striking effect at the end of each corridor.
6. Allow two days for set up.
7. Make loan requests a year ahead of time.

Many of the ideas behind these tips will be familiar to anyone setting up an exhibition in a public institution although the set up period of two days would cause heart attacks in our two-to-three-week-minimum age. On the other hand, the seventeenth century didn’t have to worry about extended labels, wall texts, graphics or audio tours. Just art.
Image: the sort of hammer that was used to bang a nail in a wall in the late seventeen century. Source: List from Francis Haskell's The ephemeral museum.