On Friday 8 November 2019, the exhibition Art on Display 1949-69 will open at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon. This exhibition is the result of a partnership between Het Nieuwe Instituut/Jaap Bakema Study Centre and the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. It will be on show in Lisbon until March 2020, after which it will get a follow-up at Het Nieuwe Instituut.

Art on Display 1949-69 investigates the relation between art, architecture and public by focusing on art exhibitions designed by architects, and is curated by Penelope Curtis (Gulbenkian Museum) and Dirk van den Heuvel (Jaap Bakema Study Centre).

In the postwar period, the small scale and interior qualities of museum contexts provided ample possibilities for architectural experimentation. This lead the British architect couple Alison and Peter Smithson to characterize exhibition design as ‘staging the possible’. Other architects from this period such as Aldo van Eyck, Lina Bo Bardi, Carlo Scarpa and Franco Albini were also explicitly probing the relation between art and architecture as a source of innovation. This attitude resulted in many different exhibition designs for permanent collections and contemporary avant-garde art shows. Moreover, Albini advised the Gulbenkian Museum on the construction of their museum building in 1969, which turns 50 years old this year.

1:1 reconstructions

Art on Display 1949-69 reconstructs six iconic exhibition designs by these architects on 1:1 scale. It provides a first-hand encounter with different ways of looking at art, and the possibility of contrasting those which might be seen as more contemplative and hieratic, with those which are clearly more immersive and spatially transformative. Museological, societal and architectural questions of the 1949-1969 period are raised once again, particularly with regard to the public role and meaning of art and cultural institutions in a democratizing society.

Het Nieuwe Instituut will host an event at the Gulbenkian Museum that will deal will the museological and museographical aspects of contemporary exhibition making and HNI’s own exhibition practice. This event is part of the 2019 Lisbon Architecture Triennale partner programme.