How to hang Old Masters

January 18 2016

Image of How to hang Old Masters

Picture: Apollo

Apollo Magazine reports on the restoration of the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, and in particular the original way the pictures were first displayed in the 1960s: on glass panels supported by concrete blocks on the floor. I must say I think it looks fantastic. And how nice (for anoraks like me) to see the backs of pictures too. More here.

Update - a reader writes:

It’s been many years since I was last there, but if memory serves correct, La Galleria Nazionale di Parma uses this method, but not at the complete abandonment of hanging works on walls as well. From the look of the Brazilian effort, the technique seems to be taking precedence over the works themselves.

Update II - a reader is not so keen:

This hanging is indeed striking modernist art in itself, but my own preference for old masters is to go in the opposite direction: to display truly old masters by means that at least hint at their original purpose and context, where that is possible, and counter the pure museification of artworks never made for museums (unlike so much modern art).  For instance, support former altarpieces upon altar-like structures, at their original heights; provide photographic mock-ups of a former altarpiece in its original situation; situate the old master in a context of other pieces evoking some sense of original context, for instance a casone underneath a wall-painting; avoid if possible the sterile separation of paintings from sculpture and “decorative arts”.  Of course this applies less to works made for secular wall-hanging, often in no particular type of room, yet it is not dissimilar to the “country house” visit which is so often appreciated by visitors as well as AHN (sans beanbags). That this approach can also be “modernist” was shown in the terrific V&A 2006-2007 exhibition (At Home in Renaissance Italy) of diverse Italian works from Florence and Venice situated together in modern structures hinting at different rooms — an approach which I was very sorry to see was ignored in the V&A’s own renovation of its medieval and renaissance galleries.  No doubt I am just an old fogey…

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