“Chock-a-block against each other!” is an unusual way to describe the hanging style of art in a museum exhibition, but it is exactly how my boss, curator Peter Zegers, described his vision for hanging posters in Belligerent Encounters (an exhibition on view in the Prints and Drawings galleries until October 23).
Belligerent Encounters features a diverse collection of works on paper dealing with various wartime themes—including posters that were intended to be pasted to walls and display boards on the street. Treating these works as fine art objects would be to alienate the viewer from their original purpose. Therefore, we chose to present them as simply and as flat up against the wall as possible—while of course keeping them museum-grade safe and secure. To achieve this, our preparators packaged them between Plexiglas and acid-free archival board, before mounting them to the wall with clips.
Hanging them so extremely close to each other acts to further reference the way in which they would have originally been seen on the street. It captures the feel of a signboard with dozens of posters pasted on to it that blended in to the general landscape of wartime cities in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the photograph above, you can see how we present the label material as simply and unobtrusively as possible, so as not to detract from the billboard feel of the poster display.
In Belligerent Encounters, these traditionally lesser regarded lithographic posters appear along with “high-art” print portfolios by artists like Goya and Dix. The curatorial hanging choices really underscore the natural juxtaposition that happens when these works are hung together.
—Molly Z., Exhibition Assistant, Department of Prints and Drawings