Pontus Hultén Study Gallery at Moderna Museet. Based on an idea by Renzo Piano.
The following text is a re-working of Hans Ulrich Obrist's interview with the curator Pontus Hultén in the former's just-published A Brief History of Curating (JRP Ringier, Zurich, 2008, ISBN 978-3-905829-55-6). The interview was conducted in Paris in 1996 and was first published in Artforum, New York, April, 1997, under the title "The Hang of It - Museum Director Pontus Hultén."
BECAUSE an elastic and open space hosting a plethora of activities within its walls
BECAUSE I was given carte blanche to what interested me
BECAUSE lectures film series concerts debates
BECAUSE between the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College
BECAUSE you could bring a Mondrian to the gallery in a taxi cab
BECAUSE signed everything
BECAUSE we could gather there and talk about ants everyday
BECAUSE I'm not sure that last sentence is transcribed correctly
BECAUSE what I meant to write is that level of activity corresponded to a need
People were capable of coming to the museum every evening; they were ready to absorb everything we could show them. There were times when there was something on every night.
The museum became a meeting ground for an entire generation:
(1)Create a public - that trusts the institution - come not because of the artists but because the museum is usually interesting
(2)Don't be identified with one person - too easily breaks down
(you'll be noticing that a lot of what I say in my sleep is about the need to built a durable system that can survive)
Niki de Saint Phalle, Pontus Hultén, Jean Tinguely and Per Olof Ultvedt working on the hand of Hon.
you need trust
a catalogue in the form of a suitcase
an encyclopedic catalogue
QUESTION:What is an exhibition?
ANSWER:At lunch I suggested we build a woman lying on her back, inside of which would be several installations. You would enter through her sex. Everyone was very enthusiastic. We managed to finish her in five weeks, inside and outside. She was 28 meters long and about nine meters high. Inside there was a milk-bar, in the right breast; a planetarium showing the Milky Way in the left breast; a mechanical man watching TV in her heart; a movie-house showing a Greta Garbo film in her arm; and an art gallery with fake old masters in one leg.
AFTERMATH: It was obvious that the mechanical age was coming to an end, that the world was about to enter a new phase.
Niki de Saint Phalle, Per Olof Ultvedt, Jean Tinguely and Pontus Hultén discussing the Hon project at the Moderna Museet on 27 May 1966.
OTHER KEYS TO THE SUSTAINING SYSTEM:
Documentation was something we found very exciting.
in the spirit of Duchamps boxes
having your own workshops is important - built Tatlins tower using my own miniature carpenters
installing an exhibition with that incredible collective spirit - install a new show every five minutes
POETRY MUST BE MADE BY ALL! TRANSFORM THE WORLD! UTOPIANS AND VISIONARIES! NO ORIGINALS!
BECAUSE a wall on which local organisations could affix statements of their principals and goals
BECAUSE it was like a big family, everyone helped each other out
BECAUSE work, money, school, press, community life
BECAUSE Dada in Paris
BECAUSE Ritual Celebrations of the Iatmul Tribe of New Guinea
BECAUSE Russian Art 1917-15, Surrealist Utopias, Parisian Graffiti, May '68
BECAUSE installed in trees
BECAUSE a geodesic dome
BECAUSE never started by thinking about budgets
a telex enabled visitors to pose questions to people in Bombay, Tokyo and New York
Each participant had to describe his vision of the world:
what would the world be like in 1981?
is still the question we ask about the future.
come to test how open we really are: the Black Panthers, soldiers gone AWOL, Vietnam draft-dodgers.
Accused of using public money to form a revolution.
a cross between a laboratory, a studio, a workshop, a theater, and a museum
A LABORATORY IS...
A STUDIO IS....
A WORKSHOP IS....
A THEATER IS...
A MUSEUM IS....
BECAUSE the participation of the public was to be more direct, more intense, and more hands on than ever before
BECAUSE where the public could participate directly
BECAUSE how something new was dealt
QUESTION:These ideas are fantastic, Pontus! Perhaps you could describe for us something about the architecture of your brain.
ANSWER:It was designed so that as you went up a floor, what you encountered was more complex than what was on the previous floor. The ground floor was to be completely open, filled with raw information, news; we were planning on having news coming in from all the wire services on a telex.
The other floors were to house temporary exhibitions and a restaurant; the latter is really important because people need somewhere to congregate when they are in your brain. On the fifth floor we were going to show the collection. Unfortunately the politicians and parliament took over my brain for themselves. But the work I did conceiving that brain turned out to be useful preparation for
BECAUSE I don't go there very often
BECAUSE I once made the mistake of going back
BECAUSE I now no longer go back
BECAUSE as a principle
BECAUSE I saw how fragile a space could be
BECAUSE the day someone decides
BECAUSE its all over almost without a trace
BECAUSE a few catalogues and that's it
BECAUSE no those are suitcases
BECAUSE ants are too expensive
IMPORTANT NOTICE! HAVE A COLLECTION!
I think a collection is absolutely fundamental to a space. To see a temporary show and then visit the collection produces an experience that is more than a sum of its parts.
There's a curious sort of current that starts to flow - that's the real reason for a collection. A collection isn't a shelter into which to retreat, it's a source of energy for the curator as much as the visitor.
The cover of the folder that accompanied the Moderna Museet exhibition, showing a working drawing itemizing the interior of Hon playrooms; Visitors to the Hon exhibition at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm.
a close dialogue with the artists
marked great moments in the history
of my friendship with them
becomes a kind of troubleshooter
there was a lot of improvisation
we had a good time
I had to leave
I was no longer practicing my profession
BECAUSE it was a kind of cafe
BECAUSE where people could meet everyday
BECAUSE no real structure or authority figure
BECAUSE grew out a discussion
BECAUSE I had with the mayor
BECAUSE while it lasted
BECAUSE we invited
BECAUSE there were only 20 per year
BECAUSE we did great things together
BECAUSE including going on an excursion to Leningrad where we did a site specific show
BECAUSE experience for me
BECAUSE an end to it
little coherence, something of a crisis
also moments of great courage and an enormous
general interest compared to when I started
I'm writing my memoirs