Toronto Canada . Los Angeles . New York USA #1 . 2015 . $ FREE visitmagazine.org
Publisher / Editor Alexandre Dias Ramos
Editorial Board Alexandre D. Ramos (Toronto), Camila Kieling (Porto Alegre), Jonathan T. D. Neil (Los Angeles / New York), Leanne Elizabeth Simaan (Los Angeles / Toronto), Maria Hirszman (SĂŁo Paulo), Valentine Moreno (Toronto)
Design Alexandre D. Ramos
Operations Manager Leanne Elizabeth Simaan
Translation Carolina Alfaro de Carvalho
Proofreader Emma Sheppard
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Distribution In hard copy, VISIT magazine is distributed mainly, but not exclusively, in the cities of Toronto (Canada), Los Angeles and New York (USA) in selected bookstores, museums, galleries, and art institutions, which contribute greatly to the expansion of dialogue about curating in the art world. If you want to have VISIT magazine in your institution, please write to email@example.com ÂŠ 2015 by VISIT curatorial art magazine All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced without permission in writing from the publisher. Issue #1 . October 2015 ISSN 2369-4688
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Many thanks to Andrea-Jo Wilson, Edwin Isensee, Fabio Torres, GEIFEC-USP, Ingrid Prince, Lina Bo e P.M. Bardi Institute, Michael Maranda, Nick Hands, Rafael Salsa Correa, Vitruvius website.
cover . View of Rio de Janeiro,
1837, by Thomas Ender (above), and Panorama of Rio de Janeiro, c. 1835, by Benjamin Mary (below), in Picturing the Americas: landscape painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada. Photo: Alex Ramos.
The transparent museum . by Renato Anelli
EDITORIAL . by Alexandre Dias Ramos Visiting a friend, a country or an art exhibition takes us to a place that is not ours and lets us experience someone else’s life. It allows us to see new worlds and to teach and learn from other people. We leave different from when we entered. It is this space between entrance and exit that interests us. The visit need not be formal, nor even happen in an appropriate location. More and more we can see that the artistic (and curatorial) experience has long ceased to be exclusive to canonical temples and has begun to inhabit countless places. It can be a museum, but it can also be our town or our living room. It’s less about the things themselves and more about the process and the dialogue to reach them. VISIT magazine presents a little about this process: the research, the preparation and the insight around the art world. It’s a space to share ideas and perceptions from specific points of view. And, as in any good conversation, we’ll have several of them here. Welcome. Come on in.
Le Gioconde . by Isis Gasparini
Visions of the Mona Lisa . by Thais Rivitti
People of the art museum . by Grant Snider
The exhibition as a picture of the Americas . by Alexandre Dias Ramos, Georgiana Uhlyarik, Peter John Brownlee, and Valéria Piccoli
A Shadow Curator inside the institution . by Claudia Zeiske and Nuno Sacramento
A truly surprising book about contracts . by Leanne Elizabeth Simaan
As things appear . by Edward M. Gómez GIFT SHOP
Curatorial accessories . by Mel Rapp
CONTRIBUTORS Alexandre Dias Ramos Independent curator and art editor, he studied Visual Arts in University of São Paulo (USP), Brazil. Holds a Specialist’s degree in Art Education and in Museology; a Master’s degree in Sociology of Culture, and a PhD in Art History, Theory and Criticism.
Claudia Zeiske Claudia is a curator and cultural activist. Originally from Germany, she studied Economics and Social Anthropology in Berlin and London. She is co-founder and Director of Deveron Arts and set up the acclaimed Artists at Glenfiddich programme in rural Speyside, Scotland.
Nuno Sacramento Nuno was born in Maputo, Mozambique and now lives and works in Aberdeenshire where he is Director of the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Lumsden. He is a graduate of the deAppel curatorial training programme and also a Doctorate in Visual Arts at the DJCAD, Dundee, Scotland.
Peter John Brownlee
Edward is an arts journalist, critic and graphic designer. He grew up in the USA, Morocco and Switzerland. He has written for the New York Times, Hyperallergic, ARTnews, Art in America, the Japan Times (Japan), Reforma (Mexico), and many other publications.
Peter is curator at the Terra Foundation for American Art in Chicago. In addition to serving as co-organizing curator of Picturing the Americas, he recently organized the exhibitions Samuel F. B. Morse’s “Gallery of the Louvre” and the Art of Invention, and co-organized Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North and Art Across America.
Edward M. Gómez
Georgiana is the Associate Curator of Canadian Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto, Canada. She is co-curator of the exhibition Picturing the Americas: landscape painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic.
Grant Snider Grant lives in Wichita, Kansas with his family, where he practices orthodontics and webcomics. His comics and illustrations have appeared in newspapers, books, magazines, and across the internet. He is a dedicated art museum-goer and always brings his sketchbook along with him.
Isis Gasparini Visual artist and dancer, investigates the complexity of the interaction between audience and artworks. Graduated in Fine Arts and Postgraduate in photography at FAAP. In 2014, integrated the Artistic Residency Program at Cité des Arts in Paris. Currently taking her master’s in Visual Poetics at ECA-USP.
Leanne Elizabeth Simaan Leanne is currently working towards a MA in Art Business at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Her background includes experience in art writing, educational and exhibition programming, collections management, social media marketing, and fundraising.
Mel Rapp Mel is an independent optician in Toronto who oversees both the retail shop Rapp Optical, as well as
the factory Rapp Eyewear, which fabricates Toronto-made limited collections of unique and beautiful handmade eyewear. He is also Director of the Rapp Museum of Eyewear.
Architect and urbanist (FAU PUCCAMP), master in History (IFCH UNICAMP), PhD in Architecture (FAU USP) and associate professor (EESC). Professor at the Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of São Paulo and chair of the Lina Bo and P. M. Bardi Institute.
Thais Rivitti Thais works as art critic and curator. Since 2010 she manages the independent art studio Ateliê397, where she presented numerous exhibitions, courses, debates and publications. She has a Journalism’s Degree (PUC-SP), Philosophy’s Degree (USP), and is Master in Theory, History and Art Criticism (USP).
Valéria Piccoli Valéria has a degree in Architecture from the University of São Paulo, same institution where she obtained her PhD in 2010. Since 2007, is part of the curatorial team of Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, becoming Chief Curator in 2012.
A Shadow Curator inside the institution . by Claudia Zeiske and Nuno Sacramento
The Shadow Curator helps to bring together the artistic practices with the core of the discourse The book ARTocracy proposes a pragmatic curatorial approach, when dealing with contemporary art, context, informal spaces, communities, and social consequence. It was written with one thing in mind: to potentiate and stir a renewed practice-led dialogue between these spheres. Traditionally, a curator is someone who takes care of the collection of a museum or historic site. The word itself comes from the Latin word “curatus,” meaning “care.” A curator has a range of responsibilities, which are different from organisation to organisation, depending on the size of the institution, its mission, its financial resources, and the availability of other staff. In the contemporary visual arts context, the curator’s role is to develop an understanding and overview of both conceptual and organisational tasks. The “caring” element of curating is not related to the objects only, but also to the artists, the community, and the context — which may be a gallery, a residency centre, a site-specific project, an event, a book, etc. The curator generates the necessary conditions for the emergence of visual arts projects and at the same time is responsible for the frameworks of reception by the public. The curatorial scope relates to every stage of the project, from the conditions of making, to the presentation, and finally to the reception of the work. right . 100 drawings from the video animation Did I See Another Angel?, 2012, digital picture, by Nick Hands.
While they may come from a visual arts training background or related discipline, such as art history or cultural studies, visual arts curators have become interdisciplinary practitioners, who have to balance the theoretical tasks (research and con-
ceptualising of projects) with the more organisational ones (fundraising, marketing/PR, learning/ education, for instance).
Shadow Curator is to the curator what the Shadow Minister is to the Minister: it is a position of peaceful antagonism or of agonism.
The idea of Shadow Curator originates from an appropriation of the concept of Shadow Minister in Anglo-Saxon politics. However, the comparison demands further clarification. While the Shadow Minister is interested in the downfall of his opponent, in order to take his place, the Shadow Curator is interested in consolidating the position of the curator. A robust curatorial practice results in a consolidated arts organisation. The Shadow Curator’s role isn’t to assist or to mentor a curator in regard to a particular project or programme. Their role is, through the use of dialogue and discussion, to challenge the proposals and actions of the curator in order to consolidate his/her methodology. Curators who are inclined to invite the critical position of the Shadow Curator are likely to belong to one or more of the following categories: feel isolated from the dominating curatorial discourse, want to gain knowledge and insight about other curatorial practices, feel the desire for challenge and discussion in order to establish their positions, want to enter networks where relevant discussions are taking place, or simply want their practices to be bridged with the practices of others in order to
assess whether their work resonates with the work of their peers. The starting points for the Shadow Curator dialogue can thus range from geographic isolation, a keen interest in expanding knowledge on curating and affiliated practices, or a desire for debate and agonistic dialogue, etc. Curators who live and work in isolation regarding contemporary arts feel that although they have access to publications and websites on curatorial discourse, they are often unable to contribute to them, which can lead to the frustration of being at the receiving end of a one-way communication. This gap is bridged by the Shadow Curator, who helps to bring together the artistic practices with the core of the discourse. Curators whose practices relate closely to curatorial discourse, often lack the time and the resources for a more formal discussion around their work. Here, the Shadow Curator potentially contributes to the formalisation of a discussion, by encouraging the curator to build a time frame for the analysis and reflection around practice, within a busy schedule. This discussion between curator and Shadow Curator leads to the deconstruction of the tacit curatorial discourse. It promotes the study of curatorial methodologies and consolidates the practices of individuals and of their organisations. It creates a new position in the context of visual arts that strengthens the position of the curator, while contributing to the approximation of practices located at the periphery and at the core of discourse. The writing of the book was the result of an often difficult, mostly pleasurable but constant, agonistic discussion between the Curator and the Shadow Curator. ¶
ARTocracy by Nuno Sacramento and Claudia Zeiske 192 pages, softcover Jovis, Berlin, 2010 jovis.de
top . The concept of Shadow
Curator was developed upon Nuno Sacramento PhD research thesis Curating Shadow: The Critical Portfolio. After completing the doctorate, Nuno Sacramento (right) introduced this concept at Deveron Arts, as Shadow Curator of the director Claudia Zeiske (left). As result of the project, the Deveron Arts institution adopted the Shadow Curator as a permanent position.
The exhibition as a picture of the Americas
. by Alexandre Dias Ramos, Georgiana Uhlyarik, Peter John Brownlee, and Valéria Piccoli The three curators talk about how it has been to prepare the largest exhibition ever made on the landscape of the Americas
The exhibition Picturing the Americas: landscape painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic is being exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Canada (June 20 – Sept. 20, 2015), the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, USA (Nov. 7, 2015 – Jan. 18, 2016), and Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo in Brazil (Feb. 27 – May 29, 2016). Alexandre Dias Ramos . How long did the planning of the
exhibition take, and how did you come to be invited to participate as curator?
top . Exhibition Picturing the Americas, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada. Photo: Alex Ramos.
Valéria Piccoli . The first conversations took place in 2010 in São Paulo between Elizabeth Glassman and Peter John Brownlee, from the Terra Foundation for American Art (TFAA), and with the former Director Marcelo Araújo and the former Chief Curator Ivo Mesquita, from Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. As the conversation eventually evolved into a partnership, I was appointed to participate as a curator due to my previous experience in the study of landscape painting in Brazil.
Georgiana Uhlyarik . Actually, you might say it all started in the late 1980s, with Ivo Mesquita travelling to Winnipeg one February and seeing Canadian landscape paintings for the first time. It made him wonder what an exhibition that examined the tradition across the hemisphere might reveal. In 2011, the Terra and the Pinacoteca embarked on making his inquiry a reality. They reached out to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and we became partners on this journey… nearly five years in the making, or over 25 if you think about it from Ivo’s perspective. Peter John Brownlee . Exactly. In early March, 2010, the Terra Foundation visited the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. It was the first stop on a tour of museums and cultural institutions in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Lima. During our meeting, Ivo Mesquita mentioned the idea for an exhibition that examined landscape paintings from across the Americas. A year later, the Pinacoteca and the Terra agreed to collaborate and invited the AGO as the project’s northern partner.
ADR . How were the works chosen and what criteria were used?
PJB . After days of discussions, the first step in beginning to compile works for consideration involved hanging hundreds of color reproductions of paintings on the walls of our meeting room in São Paulo. That was the first time we could actually see the immensity of all that we had learned the day before, when participants offered introductory presentations briefly describing the evolution of landscape painting traditions within their respective art historical traditions. Needless to say, our heads, and our eyes, were spinning. We grouped images by themes that ranged from literary landscapes to scientific exploration. Themes of work and leisure, of encounter and conflict, and of traditional forms of land use and the effects of modernization began to coalesce as images found their way into loose groupings. Over subsequent meetings, at the AGO in Toronto, at the TFAA in Chicago, and with advisors in Mexico City, the curators refined these categories, a list that expanded and contracted as we added and discarded images in an attempt to find those paintings that best expressed a particular theme and that “hung” well together. GU . We spent a lot of time learning from each other and talking about the way in which landscape painting is discussed within our respective national schools. In Canada, for some decades, we look at it through a lens “beyond wilderness,” to understand how the land has been imagined as empty and vast, when it reality it has been full of people, culture and traditions for thousands of years. The three of us co-curators talked about the different ways landscape is a construct, a framing device for values and aspirations of burgeoning settler nations. Each of us has a very unique interest and background; it was a wonderful triumvirate as we disagreed as much as we agreed. As we realized early, this is such a vast topic, we are at the beginning of the conversation — offering to shift all of our perspectives regarding paintings
that have become iconic in each country. We started there — with the icons and talked about how they measured up when taken out of the nationalist context. VP . From the beginning, my co-curators and I were aware that our knowledge of the topic was very much confined to our specific regions. We agreed to create a scientific committee that would help us gather significant material on landscape traditions in the various countries of the Americas. Many advisors, from all over the hemisphere, were engaged in the project at different levels of its development. Their generous collaboration was crucial to give us the means to formulate a narrative that could make sense of all that we had in our hands. Among the many possibilities for making an exhibition with this material, our main choice has always been to show landscape paintings in their connection/interrelation to the history of
top . Arrival of the Brazilian
shipments at the AGO. below . Niagara Falls, 1878,
by William Morris Hunt, being removed from its crate.
The level of negotiation required for each loan varied a lot, from the more political ones to a simple personal approach. We learned during the process that some institutions simply don’t have the experience in lending for international shows, others demanded an unimaginable amount of paper work, others just cannot let their works leave the country, and so on. There was not one standard situation. GU . It has been a complex and wondrous process, in diplomacy and determination. We have negotiated loans in several languages, over a long period of time. There were some disappointments, but there were also some miraculous results.
the Americas. So it was about showing beautiful paintings but also works that could speak to subjects like conflict over land, use of resources, scientific exploration and national identity, for instance. Paintings that could help us understand our relationship to the land and different notions of belonging to a particular place. ADR . Getting 118 works on loan from 51 institutions
must have been a complex task. How did the relationship with each country or institution impact the final curation?
top . Condition report of Yosemite Valley, 1868, by Albert Bierstadt. below . Postcard, 1929, by
Tarsila do Amaral, being removed from its crate.
VP . It was a very complex task indeed. First of all, we knew that we were asking for works that are considered to be masterpieces in their institutions/ collections. And we were asking them for permission to travel with these works for around one year, which can be a lot of time in many cases. So it was important to work with an “ideal” list but also count on an extensive list of possible alternates.
PJB . You said it! The curators anticipated difficulty in securing loans from certain countries, especially as we were requesting iconic paintings that serve as emblems for entire nations as well as the prestigious museums that hold them. Our expectations were confirmed in certain places and confounded in others. On the whole, the project received widespread support from museum directors and curators. However, a painting’s condition or its ability to safely travel as a result of its condition made certain paintings unavailable. Moreover, on several occasions, ministerial bureaucracy, or exorbitant costs associated with a particular loan precluded the inclusion of desired works. The study of art history is premised on the gathering of images for comparative study, a nearly effortless task in the era of digital imagery and internet search engines. Even reproducing images in publications is relatively easy in this day and age. The exhibition of actual artworks, in contrast, is quite complex. Each and every loan of paintings involves conservation, crating, shipping, insurance, climate control, customs clearances, loan fees, and the orchestration of shipments and couriers. Exhibitions of this scale and scope, regardless of their subject, are extremely difficult and costly to assemble. But, of course, they are extremely rewarding and culturally enriching. Picturing the Americas is particularly rewarding in this regard, as it is the first exhibition to take an expansive
view of landscape painting across the entire hemisphere; in numerous instances, it represents the first time that works by several of these artists have ever been exhibited together: paintings by Grant Wood of the United States hanging next to a similar painting by Anne Savage of Quebec; a work by the French-born, Brazilian painter Félix-Émile Taunay hung in concert with Canada’s Cornelius Krieghof, Mexico’s José María Velasco and Albert Bierstadt of the United States; or Uruguay’s Pedro Figari hanging alongside his fellow modernists, including Tarsila do Amaral of Brazil, Canada’s Lawren Harris, Mexico’s Gerardo Murillo, better known as Dr. Atl; Venezuela’s Armando Reverón, and Georgia O’Keeffe from the United States. Many of these juxtapositions are firsts. It is truly amazing to see these works together. ADR . This exhibition will be displayed in three different museums, so we can say there will actually be three curatorial settings within the same curatorial project. How will the displays be adapted in each exhibition space?
GU . From the start we understood that the project really unfolds not in one venue, but across the three — across the Americas as it were. It has a different context in each location and thus accumulates depth as it travels. In Toronto at the Art Gallery of Ontario it is surrounded by the history of Canadian art and a diversity of contemporary Indigenous works of art as well as commissions and public programs specifically responding to the exhibition. At Crystal Bridges it will be fully immersed in the richness of art from the United States. While at the Pinacoteca, it will resonate among the newly installed galleries of Brazilian art. It will be a privilege to be able to see it in all three venues. We three co-curators have developed the conceptual exhibition plan which is then realized in each unique space. The curator of each venue is most familiar with her museum spaces and thus takes the lead in the installation, however the exhibition’s themes and thesis is at the core. PJB . Due to the logistics of loans, a selection of artworks will rotate in and out of the exhibition’s checklist at each of the three venues. As Georgiana rightly said, each museum is different in terms
of its own collections that will contextualize the Picturing the Americas exhibition or the layout of its galleries in which the exhibition will be shown. Each of these very different museums handles exhibition design in its own way and implements unique interpretative strategies to engage with diverse and very different audiences. Each of the exhibition’s venues will tailor its presentation to increase the show’s resonance and enhance their visitors’ experience of it. VP . The idea was to guarantee that the exhibition would present significant works at all the three venues, in spite of certain absences. In that sense, our list of replacements was as fundamental as our willingness to negotiate with institutions and collections in order to achieve that goal. ADR . Since the first of the exhibitions was inaugu-
rated at the AGO, what can be understood (positive and negative) about the difference between the initial project and the actual exhibition?
VP . Only positive aspects, in my point of view. It was rewarding to see that the narrative really works as you move from one room to the next. The replacements proved to be efficient in keeping the rooms cohesive and the strategies planned by the interpretive team at the AGO really enhanced the possibilities for how the audience could encounter the work. PJB . We are proud to say that our curatorial vision, premised on the integrated, thematic approach to arranging the exhibition’s checklist, the inclusive
top . Installation process of
Picturing the Americas, AGO. Photos: Valentine Moreno.
attempt to geographically represent as many areas of the Americas as available landscape paintings would allow, and our desire to engage and include regional specialists in the interpretation and contextualization of the works, remained intact throughout the process.
bition has been realized, and now we are able to spend time with the works together and continue our inquiry… alongside our visitors in a very public way. Our discussion has now opened up to all and we are learning every day from those who are only beginning their own Picturing the Americas. ¶
GU . The initial project has evolved — it is the nature of our inquiry. As our ideas developed during our many hours of discussions, travels, reading and writing, as well as consulting with many scholars, curators, and artists, the exhibition morphed into what visitors are able to experience today at the AGO. I would say that our initial vision and am-
A truly surprising book about contracts . by Leanne Elizabeth Simaan
A handshake is not enough. As creatives, a contract can seem unnecessary, daunting, formal, or complicated, but do not lose heart! The heavyhearted can take comfort in Odenkirk’s expertly condensed introduction to contracts. She clearly and succinctly outlines key concepts and legal concerns in a manner that eliminates the intimidation that we often misappropriate to contracts. With what seems like a minimal 176 pages for such a dense topic, she provides artists/young art professionals with the confidence necessary to approach and evaluate consignment agreements, insurance, indemnification clauses, intellectual property rights, etc. Within a few short pages, the young art professional/artist will soon take solace in the fact that contracts are simply tools for communicating expectations and responsibilities. Readers have the privilege of a seasoned art lawyer’s mastery of the law and the art business world. Odenkirk answers fundamental questions such as “What is a retainer?” and “How do I find the right lawyer for my particular situation?” She also equips readers with the tools to tackle the basic elements of a contract, e.g.: explicit scope, term and
termination clauses, etc. In doing so, her expertise and warm personality takes center stage. Riddled with humor, Joe Biel’s amusing illustrations, Kimberly Varella’s clever design, interesting anecdotes (semi-fictional legal tales), this book makes contracts accessible and compelling. Who would have thought that would be possible in a book about contracts? Not only is this an essential read for agents in the art world (from artists to administrators), but really, who wouldn’t want a book with a partially eaten donut on the front endpapers? I can only hope that Odenkirk will continue to share her expansive knowledge, charming personality, and astonishing ability to make the law accessible to the public through future publications. ¶
A Surprisingly Interesting Book About Contracts: for artists & other creatives
by Sarah Conley Odenkirk 176 pages, softcover AMMO, Los Angeles, 2014 ammobooks.com
Visions of the Mona Lisa
Born in São Paulo, Brazil, 1989
Le Gioconde series, 2010 Photographs printed on adhesive vinyl, 100x150cm (each). Artist collection.
. by Thais Rivitti
Like millions of tourists that visit the Louvre Museum every year, Isis Gasparini made, in 2010, her own portrait of the Mona Lisa. Or rather, the Mona Lisas. Le Gioconde, in Italian in the plural, is a set of three photographs taken in the most famous room of the French museum, the Salle de la Joconde. The theme chosen by Isis could not have been more mundane. However, her approach is set apart critically from the commonplace images of the Mona Lisa we find by the dozen on the internet. Her work reveals something close to the vision the Mona Lisa herself has of the room she inhabits in the Louvre. Curiously, at a time when direct contact with the work is possible (despite the glass, the crowds and museum control apparatus), no one contemplates it. Except perhaps the old man in the painting by Tintoretto (Portrait of an Old Man Holding a Handkerchief) which appears in the background of the first photograph, and the woman in the painted portrait captured in the second photograph. A
relationship seems to truly be established among the paintings that are together in that room. In the third photograph, where we can see a fragment of Veronese’s Supper at Emmaus in the background, the painting and the museum tourists merge — there is a subtle passage between these two realities, suggesting a kind of continuity between these two worlds. The relationship established between the paintings, always from the Mona Lisa’s point of view, is perhaps a commentary on the spectators’ presence. Attracted to their own image-making devices, these contemporary pilgrims go to the museum to see what they are already familiar with — not the Mona Lisa, but its image. Caught in this tautological action whose result was already predicted, they lack the openness and willingness to really see, in the sense that Didi Hurberman understands vision: as a split, restless, agitated and open operation involving the viewer and that which is viewed. ¶
The transparent museum The Museu de Arte de São Paulo (Masp) was conceived by Pietro Maria Bardi (1901-1999) and Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992) in 1947. When they arrived in Brazil from Italy, businessman Assis Chateaubriand invited them to design the new museum. Masp became an important pole of cultural modernity in a city which was at the core of the Brazilian industrialization process, but was still culturally provincial. The acquired collection brought to Brazil artworks of great importance, from various origins and periods. The Bardis designed modern ways to display art, aiming to avoid reinforcing conservative positions through the pieces shown. Lina presented her museography and explained her strategies in the first edition of Habitat magazine in 1950. The intention was to offer the “viewer a pure and unguarded observation,” free of preconceptions that would highlight this or that artwork, avoiding the automatic reproduction of values that had become consolidated in Europe throughout the centuries. To achieve this, the architect positioned the paintings loose in space, with the captions at the back — a subordinate position — to allow a first judgment that was free of preconceptions.
top . Masp’s pinacotheca. Museum of Art of São Paulo, Brazil, by Lina Bo Bardi. Photo: Paolo Gasparini. Attribution: © Instituto Lina Bo e P.M. Bardi (Archive).
This way of exhibiting originated in the European artistic vanguard of the 1920s. Neoplastic and suprematist artists attempted to conquer the space with works that broke the boundaries of their supports. Frederick Kiesler (in 1925) and El Lissitzky (in 1927) applied this goal to their ex-
. by Renato Anelli
hibitions. In his Galleria d’Arte in Rome (1930), Pietro Bardi also called attention to some paintings without frames on the walls, just like Edoardo Persico would do a short while later (in 1934) in his exhibitions and storefronts in Milan. Franco Albini, BBPR, Ignazio Gardella and Carlo Scarpa adopted similar supports in their adaptations of old historic buildings to be used as museums. Transparency in the exhibitions was restricted to the interior of these buildings, as was the case of the first Masp headquarters in the Diários Associados building, on Sete de Abril Street. The limitations of that first location led to the design of the current museum at Paulista Avenue, started in 1957, but finished only in 1968. Lina took a radical approach to the transparency of the supports, building them out of glass panels and displaying them in a room whose façades were also transparent. In the words of the architect, to make art more popular,
I’ve attempted to strip the museum of that church atmosphere that excludes the uninitiated.
Detached from the walls by the glass easels, the paintings “floated” in a single space that encompassed the museum and the city, creating spatial and temporal continuity between the works and the urban environment.
The end of transparency The construction of a piece of glass architecture in the tropics faces the adversities of heat and insolation. Opting for all glass façades without any protection was part of the radical approach with which Lina Bo Bardi wanted to stand out amidst Modern Brazilian Architecture, against the extensive use of brise-soleils. To ensure the visual continuity of the glass façade, the blinds used presented yet another challenge: either the exposed works would be protected from the sun or the transparency would be fully realized despite the risk of deteriorating the pieces. This difficult choice was carefully managed while Lina Bo Bardi was alive and Pietro Maria Bardi was responsible for Masp. Lina’s death in 1992 and her husband’s retirement due to health problems shortly after, however, opened the way for those proposing the suppression of the original concept for the pinacotheca. In 1996 a drywall system was built, simulating the interior of a traditional museum inside the pinacotheca’s hall. The façades, with permanently closed blinds, received giant external billboards showcasing the museum’s programming. The technical justifications for the removal of the glass easels were based on the supposed objectivity of the “white cube”, the banal shape acclaimed
by conservative museology. Initially temporary, the walls that were built became permanent. The cultural and artistic conception of Pietro and Lina was simply disqualified as an error to be fixed.
The return of the glass easels Masp’s character is too strong to allow it to become the opposite of what it was conceived to be. Fifteen years after the suppression of the glass easels, the new managers of the museum (Chairman Heitor Martins and curator Adriano Pedrosa) were touched by the growing international recognition of the importance of Lina Bo Bardi to our times. Their decision to revert back to the original arrangement of Masp’s pinacotheca, including the transparent supports, must be celebrated. The density and broadness of the celebrations of Lina Bo Bardi’s centenary between August 2014 and July 2015, in Brazil and many other countries, certainly contributed to that decision. What is important is that Lina’s centenary commemorations can now be concluded with the celebration of this achievement. It opens a period in which the contribution of all who fought for this to happen can enhance the way the museum will be restored. Masp’s new managers will certainly be able to reinstate its vanguard role, positioning it to face the challenges of a 21st century museum. ¶
left . Masp building, by
Lina Bo Bardi. Photo: Fabio Torres.
As things appear
. by Edward M. Gómez
(This story is set in New York City in the period not long after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.) Monday
The Curator woke up one morning to the alarming realization that she understood nothing about art and that it was possible that she would never understand anything about art. More precisely, she realized that she understood nothing about painting and that it was possible that she would never understand anything about painting. Since she was currently putting the finishing touches on a big, costly exhibition of modern abstract paintings, which were to be shown alongside an impressive selection of medieval and Renaissance masterworks with which they supposedly shared important technical and thematic affinities — it would be her job to explain to viewers exactly what those relationships were — the morning’s unsettling discovery threw her into a fit of suffocating, immobilizing panic. I’m a phony. What do I know? What am I going to do?
Excerpt from The Curator, from the book As Things Appear. © 2015 Edward M. Gómez; all rights reserved. Used by permission.
The Curator was familiar, of course, with the textbook timelines, theoretical-critical jargon and classic themes of Western art history. She was an intelligent, imaginative person, who had earned a doctoral degree from one of New York’s prestigious universities. Her peers recognized her impressive scholarly achievements. Her problem, though — this is what had so devastated her on that cold winter morning — was that, despite her valuable education and years of diligent studying, suddenly she doubted that she had ever really grasped the essential spirit of any work of art, and when it came to painting, she could not recall ever having been instinctively, not merely intellectually, moved by any artist’s creation. Struck in the gut. Knocked off her feet. Warmed in her heart.
She could not answer this question: Had she ever really been seduced by art’s ineffable language of the soul? Nevertheless, thanks to the privileged nature of her work, the Curator was one of those rare individuals who had been able to personally handle and closely examine some of the greatest works of art of the past and of her own time. Over the years, she had touched with her own hands countless masterpieces, which, for most people, would only ever exist as photographic reproductions in books or magazines. Still, was she someone who could or ever would fully comprehend any true artist’s innate creative impulse — that unshakable need, as essential as breathing itself, to wake up each day and paint or draw or sculpt or sing or dance or tell stories or somehow declare to the world, in a voice at once fresh, urgent, life-affirming and resonant, “I am here, damn it! I am here!”? Would she ever have any original, genuinely knowing responses to the questions surrounding an artist’s compulsion to create given that, as she now sensed, much to her distress, perhaps it was simply beyond her ability even to begin to formulate such questions by herself?
As Things Appear by Edward M. Gómez 288 pages, softcover Ballena Studio, New York, 2015 ballenastudio.com
. by Mel Rapp
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22 www.incidentalcomics.com curatorialartmagazine
Published on Oct 25, 2015
Published on Oct 25, 2015
VISIT intends to foster reflection and dialogue about museums and galleries’ actions, conceptualizations, and the social issues involved in...