artist / participant
What are quirky salt and pepper shakers doing next to some of the main masterpieces of art history? Haim Steinbach is deeply interested in objects and how they are displayed. In this exhibition he challenges our perception of the art museum as an institution by showing important works of art side by side with small everyday objects.
In his works Haim Steinbach arranges objects from all sorts of contexts on shelves and walls and in display units. In fact we all collect things and place them next to each other – on a windowsill, the kitchen worktop, or a bathroom shelf. On a previous occasion Steinbach has explained that he regards the act of collecting and displaying things as a fundamental human practice:
"With my work, the bottom line is that any time you set an object next to another object you´re involved in a communicative, social activity."
Art seen in a new context Haim Steinbach includes works of art from different eras and genres in his exhibition, presenting them in a way that is completely different from the usual approach taken by museums, which typically display art in accordance with chronological, thematic, or monographic principles. By making a break with those principles Steinbach creates a whole new context:
"The museum is about classification and the building is an architectural institution. It is a public space, a framework for thinking and seeing. A framework may be useful to structure thinking, and it can also be restrictive. The idea is to design a shift in the framework in terms of the display, its structure and materials."
A painting full of meaning One of the central objects in the exhibition is Henri Matisse’s painting Interior with a Violin from 1918. Steinbach says about this painting:
"It is a fantastic painting from our own time; it is about inside and outside, object and sound. I have a very close personal relationship with this painting: it shows a room in the south of France on the Mediterranean sea. I once lived in a similar room, back when I was a child in Israel; the window had the exact same shutters, and the painting perfectly captures the Mediterranean light!"
Steinbach’s personal relationship with Matisse’s painting is just one of the many meanings that this artwork carries with it. The painting – like the other artworks belonging to the museum – has hung on the walls of private homes, been publicly exhibited, and put into storage before ultimately becoming part of the collection at the SMK where this art has, in turn, been perceived and interpreted in many different ways over time.
In addition to paintings, sculptures, and a video installation from the SMK’s own collections Steinbach has also included four of his own works – all of them based on existing objects, texts, and materials – as well as salt and pepper shakers collected from amongst the museum staff.
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The windows. x-rummet