Klaus Moje is one of the fathers of the modern glass movement, having invented a technique for fusing colored glass into forms. An exhibition at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design featured his work in a strict chronological sequence of 64 pieces ranging from small vases to large-scale wall-mounted works.
An extremely limited exhibition budget ($22,000, or $10/sq. ft.) and short (five-day) installation period demanded that the exhibit be fabricated off site and brought to the museum in pieces sized to fit the elevators.
The first temporary exhibition mounted in the new museum, it also served as the test case for addressing newly emerging issues of the building design, including soft wood floors that cannot be attached to and areas of inlaid glass in the floors that do not support loads from cabinetry. An idiosyncratic interior building plan configuration has visitors entering from any of three doors. The 2,200-sq.-ft., C-shaped floor plan is divided into three smaller galleries. The skylights, clerestory glass, and glass floors inspire and challenge traditional installation methods and casework.
To create a dynamic architectural installation and exciting graphic form for the exhibition, Wendy Joseph Evans Architecture mirrored the glass “zipper” feature on the MAD façade. This element displays the pieces either horizontally on tables and floor cases or vertically on the wall. The visual excitement of the form is accentuated as it flows to the ceiling, wall, and floor and ultimately forms a bench at the end of the exhibition where people can sit and watch a film about the artist.
The design team leveraged the voids of the façade as solid cabinets for display. They adhered to the strict chronology of the pieces so that visitors can understand the progression of Moje’s style and color through time. The ribbon of cabinets is more than 100 ft. long, 42-in. wide, and 4.5-in. deep, just enough to accommodate the vessel bowls without any material waste and to provide enough of a setback to protect the artwork.
For economy and quick installation, casework was made from plywood. The surfaces were sanded smooth and painted matte black with invisible joints. To achieve the effect of the vessels reading as flat “paintings in glass,” templates the exact size of each bowl were used to cut holes into the top layer of the cabinet. The inside of the ribbon of wall cabinet is painted white to reflect light back through the pieces, creating a feeling of illumination. (Actual lighting within the ribbon was beyond the budget.) The low-tech, clever system gave the show distinction, but not at the cost of increased time for “load-in” or budget.
“Simple and clever, both presentation format and wayfinding. The black ribbon that folds and twists through the exhibit space provides a simple and bold navigation system, a strong backdrop for the highly colored artifacts. The ribbon ends as a bench, making us humans seem like artifacts as well.”
“The continuous arch band provides directional continuity and visual presence. A good example of design thought and execution penetrating the applied surface.”
Wendy Joseph Evans (lead designer), Jonathan Lee (project designer)
Random Enterprises (fabrication), Museum of Arts and Design (artwork mounting)