History of Curation Part 2.

First DADA Berlin Messe (1920)
–       –      –
“This “last Dada hurrah” in Berlin, as Hausmann stated in an interview with Georges Hugnet, resulted in “the beginning of modern art at international scale”(The Dada Companion)
Fig 1. The First DADA Berlin Messe (1920)
The innovative presentation of the Berlin Messe certainly hints to the beginning of something new, especially in terms of curation, it implores the use of collage/montage to create an almost ‘otherworldly’ environment, similar to a white cube gallery space of today. Though modern in approach, its visual style also seems to harken back to the Kunstkammer’s (or ‘Cabinet of Wonders’) seen in the 16th and 17th century, and also to some extent feartures elements of the ‘wall-to-ceiilng’ approach prominent in both era’s.
Hugo Ball (1886-1927)
Started the DADA movement, in 1916 in Switzerland
Fig 2. Hugo Ball in his performance costume
The image above shows the costume, in which he performed as part of a cabaret, (In Cabaret Voltaire, which he founded)  which limited his movement; he would walk from stand to stand, reading sound poetry. (Jibberish) Ball’s work is a particularly explicit example of how art (and not just its curation) was dramatically changing in the early half of the 20th Century.

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), Fountain (1917)

Fig 3. Duchamps Urinal, ‘Fountain’ 1917
Marcel Duchamp was the first to bring the ‘readymade’ artwork in to the gallery. This process involved taking an item out of its context, signing them then placing them in a gallery setting, forcing them to become ‘art’. Duchamp used the signature ‘R.Mutt’ to conceal his identity, it is also the name of the company from which the urinal was purchased and emulates the phonetic sounds of the German word for ‘poverty’.
Duchamp positioned the readymade in front of a painting loaded with religious iconography, the urinal is surrounded with a mandala, which could pose it as a religious icon. The shadows created inside ‘Fountain’ could allude to the outline of Jesus. Personally, I think Duchamp was insinuating the sacred nature of a gallery. Viewers go on ‘pilgrimages’ to view great works and simple objects can be venerated via a signature and a pedestal.
Alfred J.Barr
 The first company director of MoMA (Museum of Modern Art)
“This chart,  by Barr, illustrates the historical development, currents and crosscurrents of modern art.”(MoMa Online)
Fig 4. Diagram of  the history of Cubism and Abstract art, Alfred J. Barr ,1936
MoMa (The Museum of Modern Art):

“In the late 1920s, three progressive and influential patrons of the arts, Miss Lillie P. Bliss, Mrs. Cornelius J. Sullivan, and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., perceived a need to challenge the conservative policies of traditional museums and to establish an institution devoted exclusively to modern art. They along with additional original trustees A. Conger Goodyear, Paul Sachs, Frank Crowninshiel and Josephine Boardman Crane created The Museum of Modern Art in 1929.” (MoMA Online)


Barr’s first curation, Cezanne, Gaugin, Seurat, Van Gogh. (1929)


Fig 5. Photographs from Barr’s first curation, Cezanne, Gaugin,Seurat, Van Gogh, 1929

This exhibition featured a  “Modern”, “Minimalist” layout, however, it is visually “unclean”,  as it features too many distractions, such as; alcoves, lighting and ceiling beams, which detract from the power/presence of the artwork.


First Papers of Surrealism (1942)
Curated by Duchamp (Who always seemed to stay peripheral to art movements)
Fig 6. First Papers of Surrealism, 1942, Philadelphia Museum of Art
In this exhibition Duchamp has flaunted surrealist ideals, by creating a ‘fantasy land’ of string, an impossible setting to view artwork, Set in a traditional viewing space, interesting parallels have been struck between the old and the new. This exhibition was one of the first of its kind to consider the audience’s physical being, in relation to viewing artworks. The audience has to get involved with the string and traverse the web to view the works on display.
Independant Group, ICA, London, (1952-55)
Fig 7. ‘Paralell of life & Art and exhibition of landscape, science and art. (1953)
The Independent group discussed art and the ways in which it can be displayed. They took an experimental approach to exhibiting and hung works from the ceiling, upside down, and at many different angles, which forced the viewer to look at the artworks from multiple different angles and viewpoints, potentially gleaning different understandings and meanings of the same work from each perspective. Multiple perspectives and their varying meanings is still a strong point which fascinates curators and artists today, with artists such as Hannah James, exploiting perspective in her current exhibition, ‘The Outline is indelible’.

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