A Symposium on Colour as an Agent for Taste, Experience and Value in the Exhibition Space.
This symposium is dedicated to the use of colour and its function in the exhibition space. At the beginning of 2019, the walls of the exhibition Noise! Frans Hals, Otherwise in Frans Hals Museum – Hal changed from a neutral white to a yellow-green that becomes increasingly intense throughout the exhibition. From this moment on, the artworks have thus been displayed in a radically different environment – an environment that is anything but neutral. This raises questions as to what such a colour scheme does to the works on view, and how it alters the viewer’s experience of the exhibition.
On 24 May 2019, a symposium will be organised to contextualise this change. It will ask what role wall colour, and colour more broadly, has had in the making of exhibitions, why certain colours are used more frequently than others, and how these questions relate to changing tastes, visual appetites and values attributed to art. In contrast to contemporary art, where they are rarely seen, exhibition walls painted various colours are often used to display old masters. Why then do museums, including the Frans Hals Museum, apply different exhibition strategies to artworks from different time periods? Departing from the question of how the use of colour has changed historically in the exhibition space, it examines how this connects to a broader visual economy and the entertainment industry museums are increasingly part of. Lastly, it raises the question of what kind of value judgments and belief systems are attached to something as innocent sounding as colour.
The event marks the beginning of a programme on Institutional Critique that will unfold at the Frans Hals Museum during 2019 and 2020. The practices of Institutional Critique are often described in terms of what they do, shifting the attention from the art object to reveal the infrastructures that support and contain it. White walls are the prototypical setting for contemporary art; they form the infrastructure through which we come to recognise art as art. While seemingly neutral, this white setting – also known as the white cube – is a carefully crafted, institutionalised space. It tells us that the things it holds are to be perceived as art, and hence looked at and valorised differently than when in the world outside.
In her influential book Spaces of Experience, Art Gallery Interiors from 1800 to 2000, Charlotte Klonk establishes a link between the consumerism of the 1950s and the rise of the white cube as spearheaded by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She concludes that the white cube was elected as the preferred exhibition interior because it was seen as the ideal environment to educate the tastes of its visitors. A skill – as it was argued by MoMA’s founding director – that could then be put to use in the budding consumer society of the time. Klonk thus points out that there is a nexus between art viewing and consumerism, one that has been actively supported by the white cube formula. If we bring this conclusion into the present, following Klonk, we might ask: how does the exhibition experience relate to the choreography of desire that is created in today’s attention economy? What role does the exhibition space and the way it is fashioned play in light of the current visual economy, as one that is increasingly characterised by online platforms and forms of consumerism in which images play an ever more important part?
Confirmed speakers include: India Mahdavi, Designer, Architect, Colourist, Paris; Daniel Morgenthaler, Curator, Helmhaus Zürich, and Lynne Kouassi, Artist, Zürich, on their exhibition Of Colour (2019); Charlotte Klonk, Professor of Art and New Media at the Humboldt University of Berlin, Author of Spaces of Experience (2009); Jessica Stockholder, Artist, affiliated with the University of Chicago, and the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin; Steven ten Thije, Research Curator, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven
The symposium is organised in cooperation with the Art History department / Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture, Universiteit van Amsterdam, where Professor Klonk will speak on 23 May, and the Centraal Museum Utrecht, where the exhibition Jessica Stockholder: Stuff Matters is on view from 19 April until 1 September 2019.
When: 24 May from 1:30 to 18 p.m.
Admission: €10/€5 (reduced), includes a drink
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Click here for the speaker biographies.