Behind the scenes
An exhibition is always preceded by months of preparation, sometimes years. Here, you can get a small glimpse of the processes behind the exhibition of Dylan’s paintings. Art educator Ulla N. Kierkgaard explains.
September 2009. New paintings
The planning and execution of the exhibition is carried out collaboratively by exhibtion curator Kasper Monrad, architect Anne Schnettler Kristensen, and myself. We first thought that the exhibition would feature selected watercolours from The Drawn Blank Series with the addition of a few examples of the artist’s new acrylic paintings. Bob Dylan, however, has other plans: He paints and paints – creating an all-new series of motifs from Brazil. They will be featured at the exhibition in Denmark.
November 2009. I see the new paintings
I have just seen Dylan’s paintings here in L.A. I take notes about the individual works and jot down ideas on how they could be exhibited. Are there specific themes or motifs that should be accentuated? What would make the optimum display of these particular paintings, these specific motifs? Who should the exhibition be addressed at?
Before and now
Prior to my visit I only knew Dylan’s drawings and watercolours entitled The Drawn Blank Series, i.e. the works exhibited at Kunstsamlungen Chemnitz in 2007. Here, Dylan recorded his impressions of specific moments during his tours, capturing his impressions from hotels, cafés, views, etc.; very much taking on the role of an observer looking at things from a distance or alone.
The Brazil Series is very different. The motifs are full of intense scenes and dramas unfolding between people. The brushwork, too, is bolder. The dark colours, the strong contours, and fissures providing glimpses of more luminous colours all combine to create a powerful idiom. The number of paintings is also far greater than I expected. I had certainly gotten plenty of food for thought about the exhibition.
January 2010. Modelling the exhibition
Back home in Copenhagen we have opted to not include the watercolours. Partly for financial reasons, and partly due to space constraints. This decision ensured that the exhibition will have a single focus, a uniform expression: The new paintings. They will appear as a single statement, a coherent series of images. Dylan’s Brazil.
We work on how to stage and present the exhibition. How can we translate our thoughts into a concrete space, into experiences for the audience? What stories do we want to tell, and how? We try out different moods, flows, and paintings. Is there a specific sequence that represents the very best way of viewing the exhibition? What aspects of the works should be highlighted? The exhibition model, done to the scale of 1:20, changes its appearance many times.
May 2010. That’s how it will be!
The walls will be rough, like stubble or like a voice that has been singing all night. It should not be too neat or too polished. The room will be asymmetrical, full of nooks and crannies that you must explore to experience everything. Furniture, display cases for drawings, and display boards for quotes will all be made out of wood. Their design will be edgy, rough. Materiality and tactility is important. There is no music. This is all about Dylan the visual artist.
July 2010. The works arrive
Now the crates holding the paintings are nestled in the museum basement. We can hardly wait to unpack them. But first they must be acclimatised. Then follows the slow test of patience involved in carefully unpacking them and checking that the paintings are still in the same condition as when they left the United States. All this is handled by our conservators, while the rests of us stand by, jittery as racehorses waiting for the signal as we wait to see the works in the exhibition space. What will the paintings look like in the right light? Will the materials and colours selected go well with the works? And, very importantly: Will our plans on where to place the paintings still be relevant?
August 2010. Everything falls into place?
This is where things get hectic. Everything inside the room must be finished. The last texts are written. Signs are put up, and so on. Graphic designers, printers, and all the other people helping out on this project keep calling, writing, running around the rooms. Did we remember everything?
The works are hung on the walls, almost exactly as we planned it, but some adjustments will always be made. We remember works in a certain way and see them as reproductions during the preparatory stages, but seeing them in real life, all together and within the lighting and colour schemes of the exhibition is something else entirely.