A world within walls; but one that takes you beyond the walls. Exhibitions are more than just spaces showcasing creative works. As art has evolved, so has the art of exhibiting art and artworks. Think back and chances are that some of your favourite exhibitions were those that helped you travel right into the artist’s world.
From the quirky, wild and imaginative world of Tim Burton to the colourful, magical world of Disney, exhibitions help create a new experience for the audience every time. It is not only the content of the exhibition that helps create this experience, but also the way that it is presented, and converting a simple gallery into the right canvas for an artist’s work is no mean feat.
There is much that goes into an exhibition between the time that an artist’s work is finalised and the gallery is thrown open to the public. Be it the Disney exhibition that followed a separate colour code for each of the fairy tales, or the simple, clean gallery space created for Shaun Gladwell’s video works, or bringing together 700 objects to recreate Tim Burton’s imaginary world, every exhibition design is unique.
As ACMI curator Emma McRae explains, there is much to the creative process behind an exhibition, as a “lot of curatorial work is about creating relationships and interpreting the contents of the exhibition.”
Starting from an idea, a long process of research and development is followed to work out the final representation of the exhibition. The idea is often to see “what the best journey is to explore the idea and present it to audiences in a way that is engaging/exciting/interesting,” says Emma.
So who are the people, the backstage heroes, who help create the magic?
“First is, of course, the artist/filmmaker/designer whose work you’re representing,” says Emma, “but then there are all the people who also help to make the exhibition practically possible – from collectors (including both individuals and institutions) to the exhibitions manager, exhibition designers, registrars, lighting designers, project officers, AV and IT teams, graphic designers, motion graphics designers, digital content producers, administrators…the list goes on.”
The exhibition experience is similar in some ways to the moving image experience. The space and the screen may be the same, but just as every film is a new experience, every exhibition creates a new world. Unlike a film, where the final credits tell you about all the people who made it possible, gallery exhibitions do not so openly reveal who helped out behind the scenes, but every part of the exhibition’s construction, be it the lighting or the use of space, has been carefully thought through and implemented by experts. It is these marks of expertise that make an exhibition special.
We hope you notice these details the next time you walk around an ACMI exhibition and experience it fully!
– Lakshmi Balakrishnan