The exhibition design for New Glass Now is a celebration of the curatorial and experiential goals. It addresses the visitor experience of the artworks and a technical investigation into the possibilities of a newly opened gallery. The space’s architectural design with its curvilinear walls and linear skylight baffles set a strong spatial vocabulary and has numerous practical requirements that the museum wanted the design team to test.
New Glass Now is a curated open call of international submissions, representing a full range of possibilities for employing glass as part of artistic expression. One hundred artists provided objects, lighting, videos, and multi-media installations. The artworks demonstrate the diversity of their makers and their skills, ranging from timely political commentary and investigations of the materiality of glass to explorations of the intersection between high-technology, tradition, and the hand.
The curator’s directive was to employ “glassy thinking,” a term that she coined but perfectly describes her intent for the exhibition armature. Glassy thinking led to a minimalist display for the diverse group of distinctive artworks. Given the show’s overall scale and the requirements for security and visitor flow, the team confronted overall planning early and continually so that each of the pieces could be displayed in its best light. The works ranged from minute jewelry to a 20-foot neon billboard, from media-driven technology to traditional vessels at domestic scale. Therefore, the design solution required a flexible armature and palette that could work with all the material presentations.
The design concept grows out of an artistic dialogue between the curvilinear forms and the pragmatic requirement that we could not attach to the gallery walls. Therefore, the orthogonal structure held inside the museum’s curvilinear space resolved substantial challenges. The structure incorporates translucent and transparent (“Gorilla”) glass barriers, white planes with 1 ½” black, tubular steel framing, and geometrically Platonic vitrines to achieve its spatial force. The glass artworks are artfully composed in arrangements that take advantage of color, scale, and formal qualities. The composition of white planes at different heights creates long vistas that draw visitors into the exhibition.
Clear, reductive graphics and strict attention to essential interpretation allow all people to enjoy glass art while understanding the artistic intention. We drew simple outline diagrams of each artwork so they are easily recognizable by the public in a group label. The elegance of the system lies in its accommodation of the interpretive strategy without detracting from the experience.
The display armature was tremendously successful. Although breakage is common a the museum, during the exhibition, there were no instances of damage to fragile artworks. They decided to keep our work permanently for the following exhibitions of their core collections. This acknowledgment of the design is not only rewarding but is also more sustainable as museums waste resources and materials on temporary exhibitions. Maintaining a flexible framework is efficient and has been a great help to the curatorial staff.