Krishnamurthy recently designed and co-directed the Fikra Graphic Design Biennial, which took place last month in a former 1970s bank in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, that had been slated for demolition. For a show emphatically examining the role of graphic design across cultures, disciplines, and media, the exhibition design itself was as energetic and vibrant as the international works on hand—with works on plinths or the floor, or projected onto surfaces, or hung on walls, occasionally punctuated by shades of black, purple, yellow, and green. At P!, Krishnamurthy’s own former gallery space in New York’s Chinatown, experimental exhibitions often illustrated the transformative possibilities of design, with rotating walls, short-term architectural interventions, bright red floors—and, for a stretch of time, a bright-green ceiling, at the fortuitous advice of a feng shui advisor.
“For me, color—like any design element—is not something to be applied arbitrarily, but is rather a larger part of the conceptual structure of an exhibition,” said Krishnamurthy, whose studio work includes exhibition designs for arts institutions such as the Jewish Museum
, M+, the Yale University Art Gallery, SALT Istanbul
, and many others. “There are a whole range of light grays, blues, and pinks that can subtly alter a space.”
The craft of choosing colors as a supporting act for curated works is a careful and perhaps thankless one, in most cases, often overlooked by viewers—but for Krishnamurthy, Fisher, and others engaged in exhibition design, the right backdrop can make or break a show. At the end of the day, is the paint selection process emotional, conceptual, or color-theory based? “All of the above,” said Fisher, with a laugh.
As Krishnamurthy attested: “Once you move away from white as the baseline, a whole ’nother world opens up.”