White Box

photographs

Behind the Scenes from Museum Installations at

The Menil Collection, The Met, MoMA, The Cleveland Museum of Art,The Aldrich Art Museum, The Hammer Museum, Norton Museum of Art,George Eastman House, Samuel Dorsky Museum, Katonah Museum of Art,P.S. 1, CUE Foundation, CCS Bard/Hessel Museum of Art, The Mordes Collection

Working in various capacities in art museums over the years, I experienced a side of institutional space that the public rarely sees. The techniques and processes of display are purposely made invisible to the public, heightening the aura of exclusivity that exists in the “white box” of the museum galleries.

In 2001 I began to ask museums for free access with my camera during exhibition changes, initiating a project that has now encompassed over fifteen museums, including Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Menil Collection and The Hammer Museum. These photographs reveal the complex relationship between art and the space in which it is presented, lifting a curtain on a provisional environment where institutional hierarchy is missing or turned upside down; where the division between art and the circumstances of its presentation is blurred; and where the installation processes themselves are aestheticized.

In the recent past a number of photographers have been drawn to the spaces that display art as subject matter, including Thomas Struth, Candida Höfer, Sherrie Levine and Louise Lawler. The work of these artists differs from my essay, however, in that the subject matter is either the sociology of the museum environment (Struth and Höfer) or institutional critique (Levine/Lawler). By making the viewer focus on the raw nature of the exhibition process, these photographs defuse the aura that surrounds the rarefied atmosphere of formal display, making us understand that art and the circumstances of its presentation are not mutually exclusive.

© 2018 by Chad Kleitsch.
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