On the web site of the Rijksmuseum, the blockbuster exhibition on Johannes Vermeer (10 February – 4 June 2023) is branded “the biggest exhibition ever”. However, guests’ hopes are quickly dashed by a be aware informing them the present is bought out. “All of Vermeer’s works can nonetheless be admired by way of the net discovery tour,” the homepage volunteers.
Often monographic, blockbuster exhibitions usually deliver collectively a single artist’s iconic works, reaching report attendance due to a brand new worth proposition. They are spectacular exhibitions with flamboyant scenographies that focus on primarily occasional guests.
In phrases of attendance, they signify an plain success. In France, the final exhibition of this kind on the Musée d’Orsay, which ended on 22 January (Munch: A Poem of Life, Love and Death) broke the establishment’s attendance report with 720,000 guests in 4 months. Some different French blockbuster examples are Tutankhamun, the Pharaoh’s Treasure on the Grande Halle de la Villette with 1.4 million guests in 2019; Leonardo da Vinci on the Louvre: 1.1 million guests in 2020; The Morozov Collection: Icons of Modern Art on the Fondation Louis Vuitton: 1.2 million guests in 2022.
Aside from France and the Netherlands, different well-known European museums are additionally advertising their momentary exhibitions as “as soon as in a lifetime” occasions. Take the current Donatello: The Renaissance in Florence in 2022 at Palazzo Strozzi, bringing collectively round 130 works from 60 areas from everywhere in the world, or the Tate London exhibition Cezanne offered as an “once-in-a-generation exhibition”.
Successful attendance however environmental failure
The downside is that such a exhibition comes with a hefty environmental invoice. Elsa Boromée, a Corporate Social Responsibility supervisor on the Museum of Natural History in Paris, reckons her establishment’s momentary exhibition on bear species in 2017 consumed the water of 454 Olympic swimming swimming pools, the annual vitality of 23 French households and emitted the greenhouse gases of 74 spherical journeys by airplane from Paris to Marseille.
Such figures are pushing cultural business gamers to overview their enterprise mannequin by integrating exhibitions’ environmental footprint, as skilled clusters emerge to instigate change. The Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille, for instance, has spent the previous two years organising workshops on the subject of museum sustainability.
Initiate a sustainable growth course of
Poring over the speeches of 54 professionals who took half in a workshop on museum sustainability in Lille, January 2022, we discovered there’s a broad consensus in France on the necessity for greener exhibitions. To this finish, the group beneficial curators rethink the very idea of the momentary exhibition and its life cycle, which spans pre-design, exhibition and dismantling occasions.
This entails reconsidering conventional notions of aesthetic and scientific excellence. Exhibitions are at the moment ranked in line with the quantity of unique artworks on show, with a typical present that includes between 100 to 150 items. It was additionally suggested that totally different museum departments concerned within the preparation of the exhibition seek the advice of one another over eco-friendly alternate options, together with digital projection of unique artworks, sustainable scenography and lighting.
Moreover, museums may also must deal with the problem of reusing as many parts of the scenography as potential, or/and of recycling them with establishments working within the artistic sector. Choosing native alternate options for donating exhibition furnishings (e.g., artwork faculties, NGOs) might additionally assist cap transport-related emissions.
Deeply rooted preconceptions
The exhibition section is the second when the general public encounters the exhibition’s narrative. And right here we come up towards one other paradox: guests we interviewed perceived an eco-designed exhibition as “greenwashing” and of poor aesthetic high quality. One customer noticed:
“An exhibition with an ‘ecological’ label… I’d be suspicious, I’d think about it ‘greenwashing’ it’s only for advertising.”
This verbatim illustrates the sentiments of holiday makers interviewed six months earlier than the set up of the eco-designed exhibition The Goya Experience on the Palais des Beaux-arts in Lille. It raises questions on guests’ means to sacrifice their aesthetic pleasure for the widespread good. To some extent, this may be defined by most of the people’s lack of information concerning the behind-the-scenes work concerned in placing on an exhibition. For instance, when respondents had been requested concerning the variety of works anticipated for a brief exhibition, they talked about a most of 40. There is due to this fact a discrepancy between the aesthetic ambitions of the curators and the expectations of holiday makers.
More broadly, guests don’t are likely to understand sustainability as a precedence for museums, in distinction to different industries:
“I believe it’s a bit unhappy to ask the query of lowering the carbon footprint in terms of tradition when there are numerous different sectors which can be worse examples. I don’t assume that tradition is a sector the place we needs to be making financial savings. […] Culture shouldn’t be the sector the place the ecological stability is the heaviest.”
However, the general public and their actions signify the biggest impression within the carbon footprint of a brief exhibition.
“The Goya Experience” on the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille
It is crucial cultural establishments educate guests on their sustainable selections. The Palais des Beaux-arts in Lille, for instance, selected to obviously model the Goya Experience as its first “eco-conceived” exhibition. In an in depth data marketing campaign, it trumpeted the ecological worth of centring its exhibition round two works belonging to to the museum, The Old Ones and The Young Ones. Out of the 40 works on show, all got here from Europe, and solely two had been ferried over by airplane. 65% of the set design was reused for the next exhibition, The Magic Forest.
The suggestions from guests was significantly constructive:
“I used to be very stunned by the tour, the set design foregrounding the creation course of behind the 2 works, the evolution of Goya’s portray, in addition to the ultimate spotlight of the 2 work of the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille. The rhythmic and grave music helps us to immerse ourselves in Goya’s darkish world.”
Technology and digital reproductions helped to interchange the lacking unique items within the scientific narrative of the exhibition tour.
Visitors interviewed on the exit of the exhibition mentioned they appreciated the exhibition’s multimedia dimension:
“I used to be stunned by the [exhibition’s] varied screenings, musical atmospheres, lighting in addition to its fully digitalized gallery. I consider the set design is essential for this [artistic] expertise – sure, the exhibition ‘Goya Experience’ lives as much as its identify.”
Launched on 22 March, the Natural History Museum’s Félins (“Felines”) exhibition has adopted the identical eco-design strategy, in line with its curator, Mathilde Chikitou, and set designer, Sacha Mitrofanoff. Be it the ground, furnishings, show instances or partitions, the lifecycle of each merchandise has been totally assessed, from the sourcing of their uncooked supplies to their potential to be reused or recycled. The works on show are primarily sourced from Parisian collections.
The examples above are proof there needn’t be any trade-offs between sustainable exhibitions and spectacular crowd-pleasers. To assist professionals slash their present’s carbon footprint, the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM) has produced a particular toolkit on environmental sustainability within the museum observe. Awaiting full-blown eco-conceived exhibits, there are easy and speedy steps can museums take to assist the planet, together with extending the period of the exhibition, privileging its tour inside the nation, calculating its impression all through its life cycle, and dealing with licensed suppliers.
Guergana Guintcheva has acquired analysis funding from town of Lille.