Anna Blessman and Peter Saville Recontextualize Museum Practices
The artistic duo Anna Blessman and Peter Saville make surprisingly accessible meta-art. Their collaboration, which began when the couple first met at a gallery opening in 2001, rests squarely at the intersection between Saville’s graphic design and Blessman’s fine art background. For their recent show “In Course of Arrangement,” at Paul Stolper Gallery, the duo exhibited a series of conceptual works that invited viewers to consider the process of exhibiting art.
For one of their major collaborations, the series “Swing Project,” Blessman and Saville created sensual, furry sculptures and playful installations, including soft pieces of memory foam and colorful ledges affixed to walls. These were in fact tongue-in-cheek interactive works—the pieces invited viewers to rest their backs comfortably against the wall or reach out and rub the bulbous, plush sculptures on pedestals. Their latest show similarly subverted conventions of gallery going.
The show’s name, “In Course of Arrangement,” is a polite phrase indicating that a gallery or room is closed for installation. The project has been on Blessman’s mind for more than a decade, since she first began photographing the often overlooked, translucent placards found throughout museum collections, often where works of art should be, but are not. Bearing such messages as “object removed for conservation” and “this exhibit has been temporarily removed,” these unassuming signs are reminders that, though the experience of a museum may feel fixed, a collection is often a dynamic entity in which pieces are continuously swapped out for restoration, documentation, and to go on loan to other institutions.
Assembled as a whole, these plexiglas placeholders serve as a catalogue of variations between the language and culture of museums across the globe. They provide a kind of cultural critique, but taken out of context, they also have a Pop sensibility. Best of all, Blessman and Saville have produced each in a limited edition, so the public can participate in this recontextualizing practice.
“In Course of Arrangement” was on view at Paul Stolper Gallery, London, Oct. 9–Nov. 21, 2015.