What do you think 2023 will hold for exhibition design?
I feel like the last few years have taught us to be wary of making predictions, so I would call this more my wishful thinking/hopes for 2023!
One headline development currently underway is the conversation about repatriating cultural heritage – the Parthenon marbles being the most prominent example. From an exhibition designer point of view, I’m excited about this because it will create opportunities to rethink the identity of some of the ‘great’ collections, and, in turn, some creative reimagining of how objects are presented and contextualised.
Something I’m hoping to see in 2023 is further movement on the creative reuse of materials, at a price institutions can afford. Why do so many things come back to procurement? But it’s true that current procurement regulations don’t often facilitate imaginative use of materials or offsetting the costs of recycling. Whole-life design means starting at the point where we’re proposing to demolish or dismantle something that already exists.
Because of limited resources and rising costs, I think we’re going to see an unashamedly back-to-basics approach in 2023. Under the heading of ‘silver linings’, this could provide a welcome review of what matters, what people really want to see and a chance to strip unnecessary additions away. We recently did a temporary show for the Royal Geographical Society (Everest Through the Lens) that was exhibition design at its simplest: a projected film, objects, DTM graphics and a beautiful frame to hold them. It was a real case of embracing limitations and we were delighted with the result.
Finally, and notwithstanding my comment above, in 2023 I would love to see some really poetic, bravura design. Design for the sheer love of it. Museums, cultural organisations and exhibition venues have become part of the conversation about the cost of living, with many offering warm spaces. It would be great if this reminded all of us of their value to society – not least as hubs for inspiration, play and joy.
What was your favourite exhibition design project from 2022 and why?
Is it a cheat to say my candidate is William Kentridge at the Royal Academy? At first glance you might say there isn’t any (or very little) exhibition design. But the subtle details – the use of carpets and different textiles on the floor, the striking metal loudspeakers – brought the 2D into the 3D in the most beguiling and tactile way. Honourable mention goes to Tiffany: Vision and Virtuosity at the Saatchi Gallery – particularly for the lighting design by DHA. Those haloed necklaces and brooches! Absolutely stunning.