Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Curatorial Intervention Goes Too Far

The Caravaggio exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome was fabulous … with the exception of the ill-conceived lighting. Perhaps the curators were trying to play off Caravaggio’s trademark “chiaroscuro” when they opted to create their own light & dark effect in presenting the two-dozen works on loan from museums around the world.

The dim ambient light in the rooms could have been effective if the canvases had been evenly lit. Instead, spotlights were trained on the paintings, presumably to highlight specific sections of each work.

Caravaggio’s own treatment of light and color in his work was carefully wrought for compositional balance and narrative clarity. I would have preferred a wash of light that allowed me to take in each composition as a whole, as the artist conceived it, without curatorial contrivance.

Why would the curators feel the need to tamper with … er, augment … Caravaggio’s work?

For some years now there has been a trend in museums to try to make old art more accessible to new audiences. This is not a bad thing: the ability to generate more profit from a special exhibit allows the production of expensive landmark exhibits like the Scuderie exhibition.

But I believe the effort to be misguided, if -- in trying to facilitate the experience for modern audiences – the work becomes even further removed from the context in and for which it was created.

Museum illumination is a fine art in itself … especially for work produced pre-electricity.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

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