10 September 2007

Museography and Interpretation: A State of Encounter

Looking at artworks requires the viewer to be simultaneously drawn in and held at bay from the art. It should be both a conscious and unconscious experience, as perception itself. How artworks are displayed, the installation designs themselves, perform this necessary action.

When we work with other architects on museum projects – whether that may be Renzo Piano, Kazuyo Sejima or I.M.Pei – our work is to make sure that the art is never sidelined, never taken hostage, as the building is designed.

When we take on an exhibit design project, we begin discussions around the art works themselves, constructing a framework for viewing. Overlapping the perception of a work in some form or another, with the work itself: this is one way of creating meaning for the visitor.

Exhibition design is to entice the most effective emotional response of an artwork for the widest audience. To do so, our approach has been to enlist, so-to-speak, the language of the art itself to create a framework for the display. We call this the museography, the museological installation.

The blueprint for a successful museography project is to believe that all voices in the design can find their place, including those of the artists themselves.

In contemporary museum installations the battle is often half won at the start: working with the likes of Vito Acconci, Takashi Murakami and Yoko Ono, as we have done, we are not allowed to forget that the perception of art comes first.

Our work is to make that eminently clear, to delay interpretation of the works, giving time for our gaze to sink in.

“…meaning is contingent on context, how it is encountered.” Nancy Spector, on the work of artist Felix Gonzales-Torre