Louise Bourgeois at Moderna “I have been to hell and back” is a fantastic show! I have been twice and plan to go again (as I student at the Royal Institute I get free entry)! Not only does it include much previously unseen work, it is also brilliantly curated. I cannot help but feel good walking through the exhibition, and I think this is the result of the combination of great art and such intelligent and appropriate display. The show is arranged thematically though the curator – Iris Müller Westermann – acknowledged in her presentation that there are a multitude of other possible ways to arrange the work. If I understand correctly it is this thinking that influenced her decision to open a number of window-like apertures in the gallery walls. These windows and the non-linear floor plan allow one to visually and physically experience the connection between the distinct galleries and themes. At what is at once the entrance and the centre of the show there is the intersection three large ‘windows’, this produces an interesting kind of meeting point. Seeing the museum staff standing there chatting with colleagues in adjoining spaces reminds me of neighbours passing the time of day over a garden fence. Visitors are given a glimpse of what is to come, and similarly the chance to chat with friends doing the show at a different pace. These architectural features create and reinforce the simultaneous senses of intimacy and openness that I find in Bourgeois’ work. My first visit was with a very knowledgeable friend (visiting from Switzerland) who hesitated to buy a ticket having seen, and been disappointed by, the encyclopedic Bourgeois exhibit at the Tate Modern (2007), however he was completely won over by the show declaring far better than the Tate’s. It made me very proud of the artscene here in my adopted hometown!
Louise Bourgeois is a great inspiration for an older unknown artist such as myself. Respected by her artist friends but not having her break-though show until the age of 71, and then continuing to work and show until 99 gives me such hope as I reach my mid-late forties!
Encouraged by a colleague here at the studio I offered English Afternoon Tea, with home-baked scones, for last Sunday’s “finish-age” and artist’s talk at Passage. It was a very pleasant afternoon and speaking about the work after having invigilated for two weekends was probably better than it would have been doing it at the vernissage. I am really pleased that I did the show, it has given me a renewed sense of purpose. It has also reminded me that it is very different seeing one’s work in a gallery/exhibition space than in the studio. Presenting, displaying, exhibiting, the work has made me think about it in new ways and opened by new possibilities.
Questions around exhibiting and display are also current on the Mejan course – not least because a number of us have made a contribution to the Frederick Kiesler show at Tensta konsthall. For me the show is the antithesis of the Bourgeois – it leaves me completely cold, uninterested and hugely disappointed. Kiesler sounds like a wonderfully eccentric and passionate man committed to innovative architecture and exhibition design. Innovation and excitement are not words that I can use to describe the terribly dry, inaccessible and (literally) ‘square’ show of sketches, models, photographs and re-creations. The inclusion of “responses” by a contemporary artist and six student groups does little to enliven things. I wonder how and why this show looks and feels the way it does – the conditions of the Kiesler Foundation? Lack of resources? Lack of imagination?
Moving from the disappointment of not getting the little red house I am now looking forward to making a bid for a former nursery school! The building is made up of what was a private home (from the 1950s) and an extension (from the 1980s). The extension would make a wonderful studio – there is a large room, a smaller room with a sink, and an ‘office’. The whole place needs a renovation, but inspired by Bourgeois I am thinking that it might somewhere to live and work for the next fifty years or so!