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Thomas F. Reese and Carol McMichael Reese. “Frames of Representation: the Architecture of Exhibitions,” conference on “Diffused Spaces: On The Future of the Museum,” Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; July 4, 1996 (without illustra

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Thomas F. Reese and Carol McMichael Reese. “Frames of Representation: the Architecture of Exhibitions,” conference on “Diffused Spaces: On The Future of the Museum,” Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; July 4, 1996 (without illustrations).
Transcript
  Thomas F. Reese and Carol McMichael Reese.  “Frames of Representation: the Architecture of Exhibitions,” conference on “Diffused Spaces: On The Future of the Museum,” Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; July 4, 1996.    FRAMES OF REPRESENTATION: THE ARCHITECTURE OF EXHIBITIONS Carol McMichael Reese Thomas F. Reese Diffused Spaces: On the Future of the Museum MACBA, Barcelona July 4, 1996      Carol McMichael Reese and Thomas F. Reese Frames of Representation: The Architecture of Exhibitions Our presentation will treat a particular class of “spaces of exhibition.” Briefly stated, these spaces were temporary exhibitions; art, architecture, urbanism, or design were their content; they were installed in museums in North America; their designers were architects, and they date to the period after 1976. We chose the topic because architects over the past twenty-year period have made important contributions to the history of display and interpretation, and also to the creation of new cognitive and experiential realms in the museum. In these exhibitions, architects collaborated in the project of historical representation, generating evocative spaces that mediate between objects and beholders, and between reality and abstraction. We will show many images, because the exhibitions were ephemeral and, unfortunately, rarely published as built works. I.  Since this symposium deals with the future of the museum, it is important to comment briefly on the condition of the museum in North America in the last decades of this millennium. We cannot review this subject in detail, except to insist that the institution qualifies and transforms the status of all artifacts and events in its domain. Kurt Forster’s typology of “shrine,” “emporium,” “artist’s loft,” “shopping mall,” and “stage” provides a useful entry to the subject. Forster identifies their respective goals as “veneration,” “study,” “merchandising,” and “performance,” creating in the beholders, respectively, dispositions towards “reverence and appreciation,” “connoisseurship and vicarious ownership,” “vicarious production,” “cultural consumption,” and “aesthetic experience.”  Forster ascribes to only one of these types—the museum as theater or spectacle—the power to generate “aesthetic experience.” In Forster’s essay, the only museums that fit into this class were devoted to the collection and display of modern and contemporary art, architecture, and design. Furthermore, he noted that these museums all maintain productive and interdependent relationships to other sites of exhibition, notably, sites of production, installation, and performance, as well as to commercial lofts and galleries. European cultural policy has led to frequent and well-financed interventions by architects in museum exhibitions. Indeed, “allestimento” has existed in some countries as a profession since the 1920s—often displacing architects from this realm of practice. North American installation practices are not the same as in Europe, any more than those of the East Coast are the same as those on the West Coast. In this paper, we want to address the unique conditions of American interventions as well as to identify the generating centers, where the leadership has been almost exclusively in the hands of curators who have invited collaborations with architects. Well into the 1970s and 80s, the “curator”—generally a scholarly specialist in the history of art—was sovereign and responsible for “hanging” a collection or exhibition with advice and support from other departments of the museum. The 1960s, however, witnessed the rise of impresario-directors like Thomas Hoving and Carter Brown, who recognized the role of museums as conscious instruments of cultural policy (and “politics”) as they had long been in Europe. Theatrical display, blockbuster exhibitions, and promotion became fundamental to the economic machinery that began to control or “re-purpose” the museum. At the National Gallery of Art, for example, the designer Gil Ravanel rivaled, and rivals, the curators in power and hierarchy. Hence, in order to re-enter the museum to participate in expositions, as had occurred in the 1920s, 30s, and 50s, the architect had to be invited as a
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