Exhibiting Music


Wed, 14 July 2021 | 17:00 – 19:30 GMT+1

MPSG online series | Panel

‘To exhibit means to fix, to present, to hang on the wall, to mount. An exhibition lets the viewer take in the works in their immobile position, returning as many times as they wish. Music is transient, unfolding in time, in the moment just past – thus speaks to us from our memory. Yet to preserve this separation – exhibited art in one place, transient music in another is to ignore a multitude of diverse historical requirements and developments.’ (Darmstadt, 2012)

It is forty years since curator Germano Celant exhibited vinyl recordings by Jean Dubuffet, longer still since the first exhibitions of Robert Morris’s ‘Box with the Sound of its Own Making’. Yet, music and music’s sounds were often distanced from the main attractions. Distancing has however turned into proximity. Notably in the last twenty years, music and musical performances in many forms have been deliberately introduced into art museums and exhibitions. These have included cross- and inter-disciplinary collaborations as well as ‘immersive and site-specific’ installations where music and other musical soundings have been integral to the work. Could visitors be encouraged to ‘hear’ the paintings, and ‘see’ the sound, as The National Gallery claimed for their 2015 ‘Soundscapes’ Exhibition, thus continuing to promote a late-Romantic obsession with synaesthesia?

This panel will critically evaluate the affective experiences of such interventions, reaching back to Walter Pater’s assertion that ‘all art constantly aspires to the condition of music’, and forward to 21st century as we experience the affect and sensation of a polyphonic, multisensory, downright noisy kind of spectatorship. We will interrogate the ways music, sound and performance might fulfil curator Laurence Alloway’s assertion that ‘an Exhibit is a way of accepting the limited conditions of an exhibition and overcoming them to make a drama of space that involves the spectators.’


Diane V. Silverthorne: ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’: the musicalisation of art museums
Gina Buenfeld-Murley: The Visible and The Invisible: The Emergence of Form in Art, Music and NatureRobert
Barry: Separation of the senses, new objects of vision: the silencing and re-sounding of museums

By admin

Sign up for periodic announcements via our Newsletter!