A recent exhibition idea came to me not from a museum but a beer garden. Yes! — and whyever not? As we see the boundaries break down between museums and other cultural institutions — museums are inviting in theater companies, yoga practitioners, and Michelin-star chefs for their restaurants, all in the name of innervating their public programs — ideas for exhibition design should come from non-museum institutions as well. This one struck me as I walked through the cultural hub atop the Pfefferberg in Berlin, with an outdoor tango stage to my left and this gravel-floored beer garden to my right. Above the tables were hung several dozen glowing orbs, dangling from the tree canopy. They ranged from about 50 cm to 150 cm in diameter, in varying shades of mottled yellow-orange. The effect stopped me in my tracks. Cosmic, certainly: it's like seeing the heavenly bodies descend to within touching distance (almost!). It made me think that such a mesmerizing display could just as well serve in an art museum gallery, simply as an accent to the exhibition down at ground level. Because the orbs are so eye-catching, they would have to be deployed thoughtfully in order that the art not be outshined; but carefully placed in a dimmed gallery with a few lit cases of sculpture, for instance, they would make magic. They would encourage lingering and looking, precisely what we aim for in museums. And they would use some of that tall vertical space at ceiling height that rarely gets used anyway. Pairing the orbs with beautiful visual material seems an obvious choice; pairing them with beer is optional.
Ideas on Display
A humble space to reflect on concepts of museum display as enacted across a wide range of subjects, countries, and approaches.