What do you think 2022 will hold for exhibition design?
Wondrous escapism I suspect, as we find ways to celebrate what it means to be alive and human. The cultural landscape has changed, however. We need to be more aware of who is represented and how our work will impact the planet. We can’t be lazy or sloppy. Exhibitions need to be clever, witty and make a statement. They need to be worth leaving the house for – plugging us into the world and the zeitgeist.
We welcome the move to recyclable plinths – as Assemble used for the Charlotte Perriand show at the Design Museum – with breeze blocks piled up to create artwork bases. These can be taken down and used for another installation or to build something else, like a reconfigurable kit of parts. Anything less feels inappropriate now.
Digital and lighting’s power to enhance and transform will be key too. Exhibits can be slightly messy at the edges, held up by pegs or surrounded by key clamp fittings, bolts or industrial elements. If the gesture is right, it’s fine – as long as it looks good in a photo.
I predict a return too to good quality, pared-back designs. Perhaps as exhibition designers, we should seek to be invisible, creating only an atmosphere, where nothing interferes with the moment of truth between visitor and the object, painting or idea on show.
What was your favourite exhibition design project from 2021?
In Moscow for work recently, I was incredibly lucky to see the newly-opened House of Culture, expertly designed and detailed by Renzo Piano. I loved the ambition of this building – re-thinking what a museum or gallery should be and how exhibitions could be more integrated into a flexible series of spaces, encouraging debate and creativity.
The museum is vast, including galleries for artists, auditoria and gardens looking across to the city and river. I was really impressed by the human voice coming through in the artworks within this machine-like environment. Somehow the frailty of the works shone through more with the consistency of the approach of the colour, tones and building materials of the gallery and building.
The works then on show – by Ragnar Kjartansson – felt really appropriate. An Icelandic performance artist, whose pieces range from large collections of paintings to video installation works – expand and contract, mirroring the experimentation of the building itself.
Other highlights include Oslo’s newly-opened Munch Museum, an exhibition of photographer Thomas Demand’s work at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow, the exhibition on Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch at 180 Studios, as well as Tate Play at the Tate Modern.