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A commentary on the Lower Level Gallery display design for the STEDELIJK BASE

Monday, February 19, 2018

On December 14, 2017, the Stedelijk Museum opened its doors to inaugurate the curatorial repurposing and display of their permanent collection. Under the influence of the research and architectural design of  OMA/AMO ’s Rem Koolhas and Federico Martinelli, STEDELIJK BASE presents on the Lower Level Gallery, a display and curatorial experiment.

I attended the festivities and found myself overwhelmed by the masses gathered, and the maze of thin steel panel-structures overloaded with works. The crowd of Art enthusiasts traveled the space restlessly and it became a dense environment where all senses where assaulted. Every corner of the space was utilized and the works where closely displayed, interacting and clashing with each other both in context or physically, showing in this first installment of the exhibition pieces from the 1800′s to 1980′s in a great hall tracing endless possible routes by means of the a set of slim self standing steel panels from which most of the artworks where hung or held.

Its kind of hard to talk or read about this exhibition if you haven’t seen, so if you are reading and haven’t, and can’t see the animation below, click on the black box.

I have visited the exhibition repeatedly in the past month to gather the reactions of spectators on day-to-day basis, to get a broader sense of how this specific architectural endeavor on artwork display has been perceived by eavesdropping conversations and even asking around. I’ve heard all kinds of inclinations towards the unexpected environment:

A young student anxiously disapproving a Barnett Newman cornered by a pile of chairs collaged into a wall that, in her opinion, deflated the experience of such a powerful painting into a piece of an absurd scalene puzzle where great art works where being interrupted.

A couple eagerly wandering about the labyrinthine pathways, surprised by the fact that every direction their eyes turned to, there was either a piece provocatively displayed or in conversation with another, that otherwise could have never been intertwined.

I myself have been in a constant state of flux on how I feel about it, as in the many visits I have payed to the show I could relate in separate occasions to one or  both of the previously mentioned comments, both retrieved from my time in  the BASE’s lower level,  dismissing the first floor more or less entirely, due to its conventional curation and display that is densely misted over the experience and for some, controversy of the former. In fact, in the last few visits I didn’t even pass by the first floor and proceeded to focus on the lower level.

Looking for more insight on the stimuli behind the final decision to discharge an overload of works in this context, I consulted the statements made by its authors.

Martinelli expressed in a publication in the OMA’s web project description,  that the realization of the way in which and due to the multimedia means of communication function from a users perspective, people have have become willing and able to focus and process on many things at the same time. As a way to homologate these tendencies, the disposition and amount of works in the gallery, are in fact, a reflection and invitation to today’s spectators to assimilate artistic perspectives through a familiar form of  experience.

That being said, I still am not sure if I appreciate the attempt of adapting the collection’s display. If, in deed, it seems to have managed a dialogue between works and compiled an engaging environment, this does not necessarily mean that it has a positive repercussion on the value some pieces can have by themselves.

Personally, even though I felt this devaluation of certain works have been a consecuence of this overcharged curation, I have to mention that it has been brought to my attention that due to the proliferation of virtual comunitation platforms and the scrolling syndrome have generated  a clash in the cultural expirience that this curatorial practise has exposed in its design.

There is, undoubtedly, a ongoing shift of the way we see the world,  facing  screens and and bombarded and lured by information, and it seems Koolhas and Martinelli may have  reflected upon this through their intervention in the display design.

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