ArtDisplay in DK.
Written by Jes Wind Andersen as contribution on conference
at Kaliningrad National Gallary sept. 2002.
At this occasion it seems natural to focus on problems about displaying art these days, where enormous amounts of pictures and information, confronts us everyday in almost any situation. My aim is to describe tendencies in the display of art in DK. It will be helpfull to classify exhibitionplaces in three
categories to avoid too rough generalizations.
First we have the art oriented museums in general, exhibition places with an artcollection and usually owned or supported financially by the state. There are exceptions to this, though. The group is by nature influenced by varied objects clauses, such as local museums dedicated to local art works etc.. The Museum of National Art is responsible for covering and exhibiting the art in general. This applies to both historic and contemporary art.
The second category are galleries which normally are privately operated. Each exhibition and other display activities results from the decision of the owner of the gallery - he is the curator. When he decides to exhibit an artist, it is his duty to defray the expenses such as the rent, fernissage, flyers and saleswork. In return the owner earns half of the sales prize in case of sale.
The third category, which in my opinion is the most interesting, is quite different. It covers the sitespecific exhibitions, usually organized by an artist or a group of artists. Sites are found by the artists with a specific goal in mind, or simply because the site is independent of the professionalised or institutionalised art sector (from category 1 and 2 above). The first group as well as the second describes sites/exhibitionlocalities which are covered up by the "artinstitution". In this third category the artists are directly responsible for their own work as well as the complete exhibition. And, importantly, they are free to do whatever they want. The main downside to this kind of exhibition - seen from the artist - is that it's hard work. The artist has to to do all practical
jobs related to the exhibition, and make sure that everybody involved as well as the audience know what's going on.
And one problem more: The media often seem uninterested in exhibitions organised by artists. They don't offer "unauthorized art" much attention, since that would claim a lot of journalistic research. In the first- and the second group this is not a major problem, because the museums or the galleries stand behind the artists, so this is safe game for the press. If you want support from the press, and you still want to do everything yourself, you've got to be clever and first of all an "interesting person", or you've got to be an controversial artist, cause then the press probably will offer you some attention anyway.
The thing is that you can do what you like, rent a bank under reconstruction, a shop, an office when it's closed anyway and so on, just to underscore that it's possible to exhibit artworks in other conditions than the conventional way.
The point about this kind of exhibition is that you as an artist allow the viewer to experience art on a site where nobody before exhibited-/experienced art, the viewer will not think about irrelevant stuff like: What was on this wall last time. You have for instance the possibility to refer to what's normaly done on the site, you can choose a frame which fit in your concept, which isn't just the white cube. You can say in this case that art in fact appears in the world.
It's my opinion that art-users in general have a problem caused by museums as well as galleries because the art-experience often seems to be a static experience dictated by the frame (a sort of a "non-real" professional
environment). What I mean is that comtemporary art which often is about life in general, has to be experienced in an atmosphere away from life, in the white cube. Actually the white cube reinforces your attention on your own person.
Another problem is that everybody expects to be "entertained in a funny way", and that's a major problem for the museums curators and in the end for the artists. Art has to be entertaining and controversal and in these frames it has to provoke or even worse it has to be commercial. Often when you have enjoyed an exhibition in a large museum the route takes it's end in a huge poster- and bookshop! Maybe it's a way for museums to survive but it's not helpful to the art experience of the user.
It seems that there are to many "interests" to be considerered in display of art these days, for instance this tendence of entertaining the art-users. This is not to say that art exhibitions have to be boring, to be qualified as good art. What I am saying is that it's important to "think” art as something completely different than entertainment. Art perception is an activity for the head and the senses - it's about reflection. Art-pieces which are "just funny" please our needs for entertainment, and stimulate our existing needs for easy entertainment - they become a legalization of the "easy way". The museums have to restrict or carefully control this tendency, because otherwise it will result in the principle about the lowest common denominator.
For instance it makes sense that the museums as well have to clarify the matter of slowness. Or focus on scale-art (referring to the contribution about perception), because art perception is a mental process sparked by the experience of physical objects, artworks are physical objects and the artexperience in an exhibition is something completely different from watching artpieces in a book. I mean the museums have to underscore the experience of artworks as a physical thing, artworks which is out of scale (enormous or diminutive), artpieces which isn't proportioned to the human size, works which is not possible to overlook in one eye, or to install over the sofa.
Tendencies such as large bookshops in museums are actually good, since it stimulates the interest of the art-user. Art-merchandise such as cups with motives of Mondrian, plates with Monet, reproductions in general, scarves, very designed objects etc. are of course the commercial part. But it is as well a possibility for the museums to focus more on artistbooks/-editions (books made by the artist, printed matter etc.), because these "objects" acts as a mouthpiece for the artist, a kind of uncensored way of speaking. A problem in this case is that these editions often are to vulnerable for the bookshops. The good thing is that you can bring it everywhere and read it everywhere for instance comfortably in your arm chair at home.