On the Art of Showing Art

20 Years of the Curatorship Study Group

Amélia (1979/1980) by Alex FlemmingMuseu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo - MAM São Paulo


Nowadays it has become virtually impossible to discuss an art show without mentioning the curatorial work, layout design, lighting, and even the building that houses the exhibition. Curatorial tasks and art-show design are becoming more and more specialized, to the point of an artwork often becoming an integral part of two other works, respectively the curator's and the designer's.
ln the past, however, the situation was quite different. At times, artists themselves stood in for the curator, exhibition designer, and dealer of their own artwork. Consequently, it was up to the artist to define mounting criteria for the exhibition.
Independent projects such as the historical show of Courbet's works held in 1855 at the venue he named Pavillion du Réalísme, or even, to mention Brazilian event, the controversial exhibition Exposição de arte moderna [Exhibition of modern art] organized by Anita Malfatti in 1917 in downtown São Paulo are examples of this common practice among artists.

Sem título (1998/1999) by Alexandre NóbregaMuseu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo - MAM São Paulo

It was also artists who, beginning in the 19205, began to introduce changes in the layout of artwork displays. Up to that time the prevailing fashion established in Paris by the Louvre had paintings hung one next to the other covering the entire wall, their frames nearly touching. In this respect, distinguished personalities of world modern art, such as Kurt Schwitters, Lissitsky and Marcel Duchamp definitively contributed toward the creation of a new layout for displaying modern art. The transfer of the world capital of culture from Paris to New York, plus the creation in New York of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) (1929) and several art galleries including Peggy Guggenheim's Art of this Century were all factors that partly changed the prevailing curatorial concepts and museum organization criteria.
In Brazil, in the Iate 19205, innovations in terms of exhibition design - for example the Exposição de arte alemã [Exhibition of german art] organized and presented by Theodor Heuberger in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in 1928, and the 1931 Salão de Maio [May salon] organized by architect Lucio Costa in Rio de Janeiro - introduced new possibilities for artwork display. They showed paintings and drawings hung side by side on the wall, forming a horizontal line and breaking with the old cumulativemanner to display two-dimensional works.

Untitled (1997) by Nazareth PachecoMuseu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo - MAM São Paulo

In the late 19405 the new-created Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP), Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (MAM-SP) and Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (MAM-RJ) hosted several exhibitions at which artworks were displayed side by side, often on screens - possibly as consequence of the larger area required by the new display format.
The problem is that the widespread use of screens led architects to design museum plans in hich they abolished the walls of exhibition galleries.
In accordance with this new trend, since its creation MAM-SP has housed exhibitions that use screens as principal displays for two-dimensional works. This routine reached its pinnacle in 1986, when architect Lina Bo Bardi designed a renovation plan for the Museum building. Her plan included a long glass-paneled wall and a facing brick wall painted in various tones of blue, thus eliminating the possibility of using these walls for display supports. lt was only in 1995, when the MAM building was once again renovated, that a new hall, Sala Paulo Figueiredo, was added to the original búilding, with solid walls meant for the display of paintings and drawings.

Fim do primeiro tempo (1973/1974) by Dudi Maia RosaMuseu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo - MAM São Paulo

This project is aimed at eliminating display screens and showing on the walls of a present-day museum hall - designed and built in abidance by what was considered to be ideal standards for artwork displays - an exhibition following criteria adopted for turn-of-the-century shows. In other words, an exhibition in which the display format leaves the horizontal standard with which the contemporary age had became used to while visiting museum halls and art galleries.
This exhibition sprang from a selection of artworks from the MAM collection produced between the 19205 and 19905, where the central motif is the female figure. The artworks, mostly two dimensional with the exception of a sculpture and an object, were arranged in such a way as to nearly take up an entire wall. A large portion of the artworks, was howeverfcreated after numerous changes in the criteria adopted for the display of contemporary works of art and the election of the ”white cube" as the ideal place for art, and the screen, for two-dimensional works.

While appropriating these artworks and arranging them next to one another this curatorial plan suggests yet a second accomplishment in terms of offering the viewer a different reading, similar to the one adºpted at the turn of the century. Here artworks have not been arranged according to a pre-established order of time or theme. Viewers are invited to sit on the bench facing the wall and peacefully obsen/e the artworks without having to inspect numerous screens with works hung in cartesian file, one after the other. Here it is up to viewers to establish possible relations among the artworks, or to pay regard them individually.
Perhaps this proposal brings a certain amount of difficulty to the contemporary gaze. However, this is precisely where the challenge posed by this curatorial project resides: the presentation, at the turn of the XXI Century, of a type of display designed after standards that prevailed and were perfectly assimilated by viewers at the turn of the XX Century.

Credits: Story

17 de abril a 19 de março de 1998


Alex Flemming
(São Paulo, SP, 1954)
Amélia, 1979
Água-tinta, 18 x 15,5 cm
Doação Paulo Figueiredo

Alex Vallauri
(Asmara, Etiópia, 1949 - São Paulo, SP, 1987)
Acrobats, 1982
Serigrafia em cores, 67,5 x 68,2 cm
Doação Suzanna Sassoun

Alfredo Ceschiatti
(Belo Horizonte, MG, 1918 - Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 1989)
As irmãs, 1966
Bronze sobre base de mármore, 114 x 67 x 22 cm
Doação Alexandre Ceschiatti

Alfredo Volpi
(Lucca, Itália, 1896 - São Paulo, SP, 1988)
Mulata, 1927
Óleo sobre tela colada sobre madeira, 59,6 x 50 cm
Doação Carlo Tamagni

Dora Longo Bahia
(São Paulo, SP, 1961)
Senta, 1994
Óleo sobre tela, 203 x 288 cm
Doação Milú Villela

Dudi Maia Rosa
(São Paulo, SP, 1946)
Fim do primeiro tempo, 1973
Óleo sobre tela,
110x 120cm
Doação artista

Flávio de Carvalho
(Barra Mansa, RJ, 1899 - Valinhos, SP, 1973)
Mulheres, 1966
Nanquim sobre papel, 68,1 x 48, 1 cm
Doação do artista
Mulheres, 1968
Nanquim sobre papel, 69,8 x 49,8 cm
Doação artista

Geraldo de Barros
(Xavantes, SP, 1923 - São Paulo, SP, 1998)
Sabonete Francis, 1977
Acrílica sobre papel colado sobre aglomerado, 183 x 287,5 cm
Doação artista

Iberê Camargo
(Restinga Seca, RS, 1914 - porto Alegre, RS, 1994)
Nu, 1940
Óleo sobre tela, 60 x 73 cm
Doação Atlântica S. A. Distribuidora de Títulos e Valores Mobiliários

lole de Freitas
(Belo Horizonte, MG, 1945)
Spectro, 1972
Fotografia colorida, 100 x 142,8 cm
Doação artista

João Càmara
(João Pessoa, P8, 1944)
Torção de uma inglesa, 1975
Óleo sobre tela, 89,5 x 60,9 cm
Doação ltaboral Comércio e Exportação Ltda.

José Antônio da Silva
(Sales de Oliveira, SP, 1909 - São Paulo, SP, 1996)
Nu no chuveiro, 1955
Óleo sobre tela, 61 x 46 cm
Espólio Maria da Glória Lameirão de Camargo Pacheco e Arthur
Octavio de Camargo Pacheco

José Pancetti
(Campinas, SP, 1904 - Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 1958)
Leitura, 1944
Óleo sobre tela, 41,7 x 3 1,4 cm
Doação Chiota magni

Luiz Paulo Baravelli
(São Paulo, SP, 1942)
No museu (n° 4), 1979
Óleo sobre tela, 150,5 x 90 cm
Doação artista

Nazareth Pacheco
(São Paulo, SP, 1961)
Sem título, 1994
Bronze e chumbo, 96 x 60 x 43 cm
Doação Jaime Roviralta

Paulo Rossi Osir
(São Paulo, 5P, 1890 - 1959)
Nu, mulata, 1 930
Óleo sobre tela, 67,8 x 90,8 cm
Doação Alice Rossi

Rochelle Costi
(Caxias do Sul, RS, 1961)
50 horas: auto-retrato roubado, 1992/93
Fotografia cm core s e texto cm metacrilato, 122 x 550 cm
Doação do artista

Rubens Gerchman
(Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 1942- São Paulo, 5P 2008)
Mulher na mesa, 1987
Acrílica sobre tela, 120 x 120 cm
Doação Sul América Seguros

Vittorio Gobbis
(Motta di Livenza, Itália, 1894 - São Paulo, SP, 1968)
Nu recostado, 1931
Óleo sobre tela, 59,4 x 69,8 cm
Doação amigos do artista

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps