A major presentation of Surrealism inspired by Georges Bataille’s short-lived radical magazine Documents opens at the Hayward Gallery in London next week, with exhibition design by Cube3.
Undercover Surrealism is an attempt to represent the wide-ranging coverage of Documents in an exhibition environment. Founded by philosopher and writer Bataille in 1929, the magazine ran for just 15 issues until 1930, covering the avant-garde movement from many viewpoints, including art, music and ethnography.
The Hayward Gallery presentation has gathered more than 200 objects that featured in the pages of Documents to recreate Bataille’s vision over 500m2 in three ground-floor galleries at the South Bank Centre venue. Cube3 was appointed to the project after a three-way credentials presentation last summer, according to exhibition curator Carolyn Hancock. The design was conceived through a collaboration between Hancock and Cube3 exhibition designer Graham Simpson.
‘We have really rather blunt gestures and then some rather subtle ones, as was the case in Documents,’ says Hancock. ‘Connections were made between different articles in the magazine, by flicking through the pages or across different editions.
In the same way, Graham has done that architecturally, through openings and vistas in the space, which let the viewer see through to different sections.’
Exhibition graphics and an accompanying catalogue are designed by Bath consultancy Hoop Design, while lighting is by Lightwaves.
Hoop Design founder Adam Hooper says the graphics are not a straight replication of the original Documents style. ‘We decided fairly early on that due to the strong visual style of Documents, we would use a fairly different design, which is a reinterpretation of Documents for the modern day, with elements such as two-column, justified text retained. The copying of earlier styles can backfire unless you get it exactly right,’ says Hooper.
To retain legibility when scaled up, the graphics in the exhibition move away from the catalogue’s condensed typeface, adds Hooper.
The exhibition is divided into a number of areas, presenting avant-garde work from areas as diverse as African art, jazz and blues music, and representations of the body and face.
Work from key artists including Pablo Picasso, André Masson, Joan Miró and Alberto Giacometti will sit alongside studies by archaeologists and ethnographers and the photographs of Jacques-André Boiffard and Karl Blossfeldt.
‘It is a very complex exhibition linking all these areas together. Wherever you move around the space, you can capture things from other areas and each subject links with the next,’ says Simpson. According to Hancock, the colour scheme is a key element. ‘We have selected very quiet colours, tones of grey and white, with a brighter yellow in a separate reading area that is not part of the main exhibition.’
Undercover Surrealism runs from 11 May to 30 July
• Exhibition design by Cube3
• Graphics by Hoop Design
• Lighting by Lightwaves