René Magritte: The Fifth Season

Finalist 2020

René Magritte: The Fifth Season explores how Magritte balances irony and conviction, philosophy and fantasy, to illuminate the gaps between what we see and what we know. Together, the works revealed Magritte as an artist acutely attuned to the paradoxes at work within reality and an enduring champion of the role of mystery in life and art. For the exhibition design and graphics, the goal was to prepare visitors to engage with the visual world of René Magritte, providing opportunities to learn more about the themes of the exhibition as well as create sharable moments on social media platforms.

Drawing on the surreal and the mysterious themes in Magritte’s paintings, and reacting to the particular navigational challenges of the museum’s architecture, a system of curtains was developed that guide visitors through a queuing space and an antechamber area. These spaces provided flexibility for queuing (the curtains can be drawn depending on the size of the crowds) as well as an opportunity for visitors to leave the outside world behind, and mentally prepare to become immersed in the art. Large-scale reproductions referenced Magritte’s giant 360° mural The Enchanted Domain (1953).

An interpretative gallery at the end of the exhibition, developed in partnership with Frog, presents a series of altered and augmented “windows” that helped visitors connect to themes of the exhibition in playful, visceral ways. Each window invites visitors to be “seen,” while simultaneously obstructing and altering their perception of reality. Some windows function as digital mirrors in which the visitors’ reflections behave in unexpected ways. Other windows sense visitors’ presence and open a gateway into another, augmented reality. The windows act as both portals and problems, challenging expectations of what can and should be seen.

Design Firms: 

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Client: 

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Project Area: 

13,800 sq ft

Open Date: 

May 2018

Project Budget: 

N/A

Photo Credits: 

Todd Tankersley, Katherine Du Tiel, Frog Design

Design Team: 

Matea Bronić (senior designer), Sarah Choi (exhibition design coordinator), Bosco Hernández (design director), James Provenza (senior designer), Kent Roberts (exhibition design manager), Maggie Wallace (design project coordinator)

Consultants: 

Caitlin Haskell (associate curator of painting and sculpture), Lily Mitchem Pearsall (curatorial project manager, painting and sculpture), Gary Garrels (elise s. haas senior curator of painting and sculpture), Frog Design (global design and innovation consultancy)

Fabricators: 

Barker Blue (wall graphics), Jonathan Hirabayashi Design (vinyl signage), New Bohemia Signs (wall mural painting), Cliff Digital (ink transfer labels), Mike Williams Drywall (drywall), Jon Haller (painting), Decker Electric (electrical)

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