Façade is a series of photographs of contemporary art museum interiors by emerging artist Lucy Hawthorne. The images are tightly cropped, square close-ups of the angles, patterns and textures common in contemporary museum architecture. The exhibition includes photographs of MONA (Hobart), Museum of Contemporary Art (Sydney), NGV Australia (Melbourne), Macro (Rome), MAXXI (Rome), Guggenheim (Bilbao), New Museum (New York), CaixaForum (Madrid), and LACMA (Los Angeles).
In a globalised world, museums distinguish themselves through increasingly novel and unlikely buildings, which are designed by star architects like Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry. Interestingly, many of the buildings’ common features blur the line between art and architecture: walls meet at odd angles, the dominant white surfaces are interrupted by a red feature wall or rail, and material textures are introduced in the form of polished concrete and weathered steel. Façade re-presents these features as two-dimensional prints. The cropping produces flattened and abstracted images that are at odds with the three-dimensionality of the original subject. The photographs in this series also highlight slight and almost imperceptible flaws in the white-walled galleries, with each image revealing a small imperfection: a watermark on the ceiling, a messy paint job, a scuffed shoe mark, or an accidental lump in the wall.
Each of these flaws represents a tear in the façade of power. The white walls that typify contemporary art museums are an attempt to neutralise the space, both physically and ideologically. The Modernist notion of aesthetic autonomy can be seen as a political strategy, rather than just a philosophy towards exhibition display. The museum is a predominantly physical space, so decisions such as a gallery’s layout or wall colour subtly communicate value and power. The photographs draw attention to the physicality of the museum, and by pointing out subtle physical marks of human error, I am concurrently questioning its privileged role as a creator of knowledge and promoter of dominant cultural values.
Saturday 7 – Saturday 28 February 2015
9:00am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday
9:00am – 5:00pm Saturday 7 & Saturday 29 February 2015
Friday 6 February 2015, 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Image Credits: Lucy Hawthorne. Museum Patterns (MONA) (2013).