Seminar X - Catherine S. Lee
The exhibition designer Catherine S. Lee was invited to the 10th DOOSAN Curator Workshop seminar conducted on Nov 28th. She talked about how she became involved in exhibition space design, about actual cases, the relationship between exhibition planning and design, and exhibition space research, etc.
The emergence of exhibition techniques catering to new forms of art in Europe from early 20th Century impacted the formation of new roles and standards for institutions and curators. What lies as the background in the recent phenomenon of gradually increasing awareness in the importance of exhibition design is the fact that the objective and evaluation of exhibition miss the interest and discourse on the works themselves, and are becoming ever more audience-dependent. As more importance and emphasis is being placed on the subject which views the work, various methods (all sorts of graphic and digital mediums, etc.) to strengthen the exhibition experiences of the audience accordingly are continuously emerging.
While major art institutions in Korea and abroad operate a separate design team, what’s interesting is that the role of design differs in each country. MoMA, for example, limits the role of design as a support for the exhibition, while it’s understood as a more artistically expanded territory in Europe. In Korea, one can infer by the number of the personnel in the design team at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, that the department plays quite an important role in the museum. On the other hand, in the case of Seoul Museum of Art, the designer is selected according to the intention of the exhibition plan; therefore, there’s a different level of involvement of design in each exhibition. In the art institution, the exhibition space is not only just a site where art works are displayed, but an important place that demonstrates the identity of the institution. However, it is true that in comparison to such importance, more emphasis is placed on exhibition-related programs or promotion marketing rather than exhibition design in Korea. In order to effectively make a full use of design, what must lie in the center is the role and curatorial competency of the curator.
The seminar also discussed the appropriate relationship between exhibition planning and design. If the curator’s role is dominant, the designer tends to function as a mere support; on the other hand, if the role of the designer overpowers, the curator tends to function as a mere registrar. The most ideal would be for the curator and designer to mutually cooperate based on the right degree of understanding about the exhibition; however, before that, this is only possible when the curator demonstrates competency in exhibition planning.
As an actual example of exhibition space design, the seminar observed Highlight, the Cartier Collection exhibition held at Seoul Museum of Art in 2017. Lee talked about issues and solutions for conditions and scale of the space demanded by each work, the flow sequence, and the way in which the individual works were placed. In addition, the participants also examined the exhibition design archive accumulated throughout many years, and Lee also shared her own ways of documenting exhibition staging, lighting and space composition. Lastly, Lee expressed her suggestions related to space design in regards to the DOOSAN Curator Workshop exhibition in 2019.