Week2- Museum interface and space

Art and Media Interfaced – Week2- Post

Huaiyu Zhang

This post talks about the space of the Phillips Collection and my perspective of the exhibitions ‘space. In the first part, this post talks about the museum’s history and as an interface, it’s historical and institutional functions. The second part talks about what I found about the exhibition space when I visited the museum and combined with the readings, what I learned about the interpretation of the museums’ space.

The museum is the interface of artifacts in two aspects. The first is that museum is an art and cultural space has institutional functions, and the second one is the museum itself is an interface, with exhibitions in it and providing a system of the meaning of the collections in it. The Phillips Collection is an interface of the art institution. The Phillips Collection itself is a historical institution with an accumulation of art collection and the building itself, is the witness of its history. When I visited the museum, I found that the Phillip Museum has two spaces, the new gallery house, and the old family house, and the two spaces separate and connect the idea of collections and different styles of arts. During the visiting, the family house, with small rooms and traditional decors, did not look like a gallery, but as a book of a collection, and what interesting is that the new gallery also heritage the tradition of the family house. It did not differentiate with the old house but designed with small rooms and the traditional atmosphere, even with a fireplace, and the two buildings felt like a whole institution, showing the idea of the collections and its history, and forms special space for the art collections. A museum is also a place that preserves and collects arts and shows the “psychological weight which reinforces the predominance of the support” (Buren, 1985). By browsing the website of the Phillips Collection, there are introductions of the history of the collections and why the collector chose the painting instead of the others and it is better for understanding the idea and design of the exhibitions.

During the visit, what I like is the space and arrangement of the collection, it not only creates a space for the paintings but also makes a context of the dialog. Compared to the exhibitions in large museums such as the MET or some national galleries, Phillips Collections is much more like an exquisitely carved artifact. Each room is arranged with selected artifacts of the owners, expressing the tradition and the ideas of the collectors. In the music room, the room was covered by wood-paneled walls on the front side, and the two paintings of Piet Mondrian hung on the wall. The comparison of the color the wood and the white space makes me focus on the painting without too much disruption from outside. With the comparison of the colors, the painting seems nor expend to the surroundings but go deep inside to the white space within the frame. When walking through the music room to the dining room, I saw three paintings of Piet Mondrian, with different styles, especially the comparison of Painting No. 9 and the Self- Portrait. When I was standing in front of the Self- Portrait which is Impressionism and looked back, I could see the Painting No. 9 far away on the wall of the music hall, which is Neo-Plasticism. Those two paintings both come from Piet Mondrian but form such a difference by the connection and the placement of two private rooms, creating the collision of the capture of a momentary of light and memory with the infinite imagination of spaces and elements. It is something like a discussion or a dialog between the Neo-Plasticism and the Impressionism, and this arrangement forms a context of comparison.

Painting No. 9 and the dining room

“Things become arts in a space where powerful ideas about arts focus on them”(O’Doherty, 1999). Even though the family house, to some extent, influence the understanding of the Piet Mondrian paintings, the Phillips Collection offers white and rigorous space to focus, without the influence of outside meanings and feelings. The Rothko Room is a space for wondering and creating an atmosphere for feeling the paintings. The paintings have no frame, no absolute limit, and no psychological container, but the room set up space, such like a frame, for the paintings, and the artist, and it is, therefore, set up the context of feeling the art. I thought each person have different feelings when they walk or sit in the room. However, the limited space of the room and bench form an environment of letting people immerse and saturate in it, and at the same time, can observe the details of the original paintings. The light of The Rothko Room is not so bright or so dim, so when I sit on the bench, the three paintings seems like forming a space of infinity. However, when I stood up and walk around the space, I could see the details of the paintings. There are small bright spots on the green pigment just like shining stars, and the original form of some dry pigment stick on the surface. The rough and random edge of the three paintings seems to transfer to the surroundings. The frame is unlimited, but the room offers a limited place and forms an infinite frame for the visitors to appreciate the work of the arts.


[1].  O’Doherty, B. (1999). Chapter One. In E. Editor (Ed.), Inside the white cube: The ideology of the gallery space. Berkeley: University of California Press. Retrieved from: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bxfe3nz80i2GVnpSRFBXRVNFeFU/view

[2]. Daniel Buren. (1985).In E. Editor (Ed.), Function of the Museum. In Theories of Contemporary Art. Retrieved from: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bxfe3nz80i2GdkN6V1l2d0V5YTA/view