Municipality of Milan

Theo Eshetu, Crocodile on a ceiling, 2024. Multi-channel video installation.

March 4, 2024
Art, culture, fashion in and out of the showcase
March 1–September 8, 2024
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Mudec—Museo delle Culture di Milano
Via Tortona, 56
20144 Milan
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MUDEC (Museo delle Culture, Milan) presents the project Exposure, centered on a reflection on the public display of artworks and, in particular, on the vitrine, which is virtually synonymous with the European museum. This problematic becomes particularly acute and different when it comes to ethnographic collections, such as MUDEC has.

The project breaks the traditional spatial and temporal structures of the exhibition and develops in several episodes: in October 2023, in the central space of the museum designed by David Chipperfield Architects, the Mexican artist Marianna Castillo Deball (b. 1975) created a new large-scale installation of 7 elements based on the study and interpretation of textile artifacts from the MUDEC collection. Due to their fragility and specific condition, as well as their initial fragmentation, they rarely leave the storage, and Deball’s gesture of rescaling, creating extreme visibility, and “capturing” the glass atrium becomes an important point of reference for the entire project.

Aiming to change the usual routes within the museum itself, the second episode of Exposure evolves in the permanent collection of the Ethnographic Museum through a series of interventions by video artist and filmmaker Theo Eshetu (b.1958). Especially for the exhibition Eshetu created the multichannel video installation Crocodile on a ceiling, in which he reinterprets in a personal way the phenomenon of the Wunderkammern.

Core of the project and another episode develops in for the temporary exhibitions halls and is related to a series of questions to the history and essence of the vitrine in the museum and especially in the ethnographic one. How the architecture of the vitrine itself determines the display of objects, how traditional European classifications and taxonomies are formed, and to what extent they are able to reflect the original contexts and origins of objects. The vitrines in the space, which were kindly provided by various public Italian institutions for the exhibition, become “containers” within which the logic of European taxonomies is taken to its absurd limit. The vitrine is also interpreted as a repository of valuable objects, but the exhibition proposes many different answers to the question what do we consider valuable, what is responsible for our perception of “value”? 

Logically swapping historical perspective for a contemporary one, the project continues to explore the life forms of the vitrine in the contemporary museum and in the practice of contemporary artists. Mark Dion’s (b.1961) cabinet with glass objects found in a Venetian lagoon or Damien Hirst’s (b. 1965) vitrine with cigarette butts inside (Dead Ends, 1994). To what extent does the vitrine as a spatial and ideological structure determine our perception, up to what point does it fulfill only a storing function, and when is it possible to overcome it?

In this regard, the final highlight is a new work by the Italian artist Monia Ben Hamouda (b.1991), which is in essence a manifesto and calls on the viewer to look beyond the museum and museum convention and symbolically returns us to the physical sensations of the objects in the collection.

The exhibition is also enriched by a rich program of events that allow us to reflect on some of the key concepts of the exhibition.

Thanks to the collaboration with the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) in Los Angeles, MUDEC will host the international symposium “Public Art Inside Out” (May 7–8, 2024), which will focus on themes related to public art: these include the role of pedestals in monumentality.

Finally, the “Exposure” project will be presented in the second issue of the magazine MU—MUDEC United”, which will propose in-depth articles on the theme.             

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Municipality of Milan
March 4, 2024

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