Museum as Interface Notes

Notes from Museum as Interface by Martin Grossman


1. SILVETTI, Jorge, The Beauty of Shadows, in Oppositions N. 9, 1977, pp 43-61.


2. GROSSMANN, Martin, Museum Imaging: modelling Modernity, PhD Thesis, Liverpool University, 1993, pp 333.


3. GROSSMANN, Martin, Hipermuseu: a arte em outras dimensões. Critical argument submitted to the Qualification Examination (Livre Docência) at the Department of Library Studies of the School of Communication and Arts of the University of São Paulo, under the specialisation of Cultural Action/Professorship Thesis, 2001.


4. Condition of modern art explored in the PhD thesis Museum Imaging: Modelling Modernity conducted from October 1988 to March 2003 at the School of Architecture and Building Engineering of the University of Liverpool, under the supervision of Professor David Thistlewood (1944-1998).


5. The term ‘flâneur’ comes from the French verb ‘flâner’, which means to walk or to stroll. It is directly linked to the theory of modernity, whose foundation is Charles Baudelaire’s work, particularly the way in which the poet and essayist treats the characterisation of modern man whose habitat is the city, the metropolis. Other authors that complement and update this conceptualisation are Walter Benjamin, Georg Simmel and Sigfried Kracauer, amongst others. The ‘flâneur’ is also currently linked to the experience of browsing the virtual world, particularly the hypertext that constitutes the internet. Please refer to an interesting site that associates the ‘flâneur’ to the notion of hypertext: The Arcades Project: The Flâneur. <>


6. BENJAMIN, Walter, One Way Street, New York Harcourt Brace Jovanivich, 1978, pp 96.


7. As suggested by Walter Benjamin in relation to the allegory of Angelus Novus in his essay Theses of the Philosophy of History of 1940.


8. The concept of anti-museum was also developed during my post-graduation as the result of a process of deconstructing the prevalent concept of the art museum, which corresponds to its universalism. The possibility of exploring other transversal – or even eccentric and contextual – models and modes that are still related to the museological practice and theory, generates this concept which is fundamental for the constitution of a new rationale in terms of the reflection of the art museum’s role in contemporaneity. In addition to the PhD thesis, please see also GROSSMANN, Martin O Anti-Museu IN Revista Comunicações e Artes, Ano 15, nº24, 1991, pp 5-20.


9. A multimedia version of this text is available at the Fórum Permanente’s website <>


10. The first purpose built museum was the Fridericianum Museum in Kassel, Germany, in 1779. The same country also saw the first museum construction boom from the 1830s onwards in cities such as Berlin and Munich.


11. O’DOHERTY, Brian No interior do Cubo Branco, a ideologia do espaço da arte, São Paulo, Martins Fontes, 2002.


12. The trajectory of the Great International Exhibitions began on 1st of May 1851 with the opening of the Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park. Designed by engineer Joseph Paxton, this incredible 750,000 square feet transparent construction, made from pre-fabricated cast iron and glass, was 2,000 feet long, 500 feet wide and 70 feet tall. It exhibited the magnitude and diversity of the colonial production, from industrialised products, machinery and artworks, displayed by more than 13,000 exhibitors, both from the United Kingdom and other European countries and the US. The 1st International Exhibition at the Crystal Palace received around 6 million visitors. The resources from the profits resulting from its huge success made possible the construction of important museums, such as the Science Museum, the National History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, all located in the district of South Kensington in London. Following this, there were the great exhibitions of Dublin (1853), New York (1853), Munich (1854), Paris (1855) and many more. Besides the Crystal Palace, other fantastic constructions based on this new cast iron and glass technology were erected thanks to the commercial and popular success of the Great Exhibitions, including the Palais de l’Industrie in Paris in 1855. The main exhibition building in 1867, also in Paris, erected by Kranz and Alexandre Eiffel, was oval shaped with a 1,739 x 1,370 feet axis. One of the main landmarks of this grandiose period is the almost 1,000 feet high Eiffel Tower, which weights more than 7,000 tons and was the central part of the Paris Great Exhibition in 1889. The great exhibition model loses momentum mainly due to the Great Wars.


13. Term coined by Guy Debord and explored by him is his 1967 book La Société du Spectacle, which can be accessed online in Portuguese at:


14. Different fields of knowledge have been developing reflections and conclusions on the path from internationalism to globalisation. In the case of contemporary art and its institutions, we can highlight the work of GAM-Global Art and the Museum, a research and cultural action platform based at the ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany, headed by Hans Belting and Andrea Buddensieg. Please visit the site: As well as two published books so far: WEIBEL, Peter & BUDDENSIEG, Andrea Contemporary Art and the Museum, a Global Perspective, Ostfildern, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2007, p.256 e BELTING, Hans & BUDDENSIEG, Andrea, The Global Art World, audiences, markets and museums, Ostfildern, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2009, p.408.



15. Please see KRAUSS, R. (1986), The Originality of the Avant-garde and other Modernist Myths, (London, MIT).


16. (…) a periodizing concept whose function is to correlate the emergence of new formal features in culture with the emergence of a new type of social life and a new economic order – what is often euphemistically called modernization, post-industrial or consumer society, the society of the media or the spectacle or multinational capitalism. This new moment of capitalism can be dated from the postwar boom in the United States in the late 1940s and early ‘50s or, in France, from the establishment of the Fifth Republic in 1958. (JAMESON, Fredric, Pós-Modernidade e Sociedade do Consumo Novos Estudos Cebrap; n. 12/ 1985 b. p. 16-26.


17. IN Mildred S Friedman; Joseph Giovannini; et al Graphic design in America : a visual language history; Minneapolis : Walker Art Center ; New York : Abrams, 1989.


18. STEIN, C. S., The art museum of tomorrow. Architectural record, v. 67, Jan. 1930, p. 5.


19. The typology of the museum that incorporates all these features is the National History Museum.


20. M.D. Levin, The Modern Museum: temple or showroom? Tel Aviv: Dvir Publishing House, 1983.


21. GROSSMANN, Martin Apresentação IN O´DOHERTY, Brian. No interior do cubo branco: a ideologia do Espaço da Arte. São Paulo, Martins Fontes, 2002, p. xiv.


22. O’DOHERTY. op cit., p. 3.


23. This aspiration of ‘pure form’ in architecture can be found in the majority of avant-garde movements of the 20th century: in Futurism, at the Bauhaus, in De Stijl’s Plastic Architecture and mainly in the International Style.


24. GROSSMANN, O Anti-Museu, op cit p. 20.


25. GROSSMANN, O Anti-Museu, op cit. p. 18.


26. André Malraux was a multi-faceted man, committed to noble causes. He fought for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, organising the International Brigades’ Air Force (1936-39).  He also fought in WWII and took part in the French Resistance during German occupation. A fearless adventurer, he participated in some archaeological expeditions in Indochina. Writer, essayist, art historian and statesman, he was the Ministry of Culture during Charles de Gaulle’s term for 11 years, from 1958-1969.


27. MALRAUX, A. Museu Imaginário in “As Vozes do Silêncio”, Lisboa, Livros do Brasil, vol 1, undated.


28. GROSSMANN, Martin Pensando el Museo de Hoy, in n.3, May and June 2004, p. 16.


29. GIRARD, Augustin, « 1961. Ouverture de la première maison de la Culture », Lettre d'information n° 43, 17 février 1999, Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication.


30. In 1956, Brancusi donated his studio with all its contents to the French state (finished works, drawings, furniture, tools, library, record collection…). With the aim of maintaining the integrity of this collection, the National Modern Art Museum decided to rebuild it as it was left by the artist, near the Beaubourg, and invited architect Renzo Piano to design this difficult transmutation: from studio to studio-exhibition. This is doubtless one of the most impressive installations of the 20th century, alongside Palácio Itamaraty designed by Niemeyer in Brasilia and inaugurated in 1970.


31. See BAUDRILLARD, Jean, O efeito Beaubourg: implosão e dissuasão (1977) in A arte da desaparição, Rio de Janeiro: Editora  UFRJ, p.165 and 173. (Collection of texts organised by Kátia Maciel).


32. Interview with Pontus Hulten by Hans Ulrich Obrist in 1997 in OBRIST, Hans Ulrich, A Brief History of Curating, Zurich & Dijon, JRP/Ringier & Les Presses du Réel, 2008, p-45 [note: the Kulturhuset exists, see:].


33. GLEADOWE, Teresa et all, Exhibiting the New Art: 'Op Losse Schroeven' and 'When Attitudes Become Form' 1969, Afterall, London, 2010.


34. Kunsthalle is a German term commonly employed in the art world to designate spaces for temporary art exhibitions.


35. Interview with Harald Szeemann  by Hans Ulrich Obrist in 1995 in OBRIST, Hans Ulrich, A Brief History of Curating, op. cit., p-87.


36. Interview with Walter Zanini by Fórum Permanente. Interviewers: Martin Grossmann, Pamela Prado, Vinicius Spricigo, Isis Baldini Elias, São Paulo 16/12/2009, (forthcoming).


37. For more details about the role of mail art in the MAC’s curatorial strategy during Walter Zanini’s direction (1963-78) and also in the 16th São Paulo Biennial, see: BALDINI ELIAS, Isis, Conservação e Restauro de Obras com Valor de Contemporaneidade; a arte postal da XVI Bienal de São Paulo, PhD Thesis, ECA-USP, São Paulo, 2010, pp. 207.


38. SULZBACHER, Tatiana Cavalheiro, Laboratório no Museu: Práticas Colaborativas dentro de Instituições de Arte, MA Dissertation, CEART/UDESC, Florianópolis, 2010.


39. Interview with Walter Zanini by Fórum Permanente. Op cit.


40. GROSSMANN, Martin Pensando el Museo de Hoy, op. Cit p. 17. In the same text there is also an important remark on the opposing views about the museum, Valéry’s and Proust’s: (…) Valéry considered the museum as a dismal repository. (…) Proust considered the museum as the ideal place for enchantment. Valéry was very interested in the mechanics of human thought and in creating a poetry that was pure in itself, in which language would be able to be fully expressed. Proust took art as the heart of human existence and believed its role was to recreate the past. From Valéry’s more objective viewpoint, museums were like tombs for artworks. His critique was directed to the excessive accumulation of works in museums such as the Louvre and his argument was that no mind was capable to deal with such disparity of information. Proust, on the other hand, understood history as landscape and consequently the museum as an irreplaceable medium in supporting the joie enivrante that this experience allows.” p. 17.


41. GROSSMANN, Martin Seduccion y Crítica; arte y arquitectura em Brasil, Sublime N.6, November and December 2002, p. 20.


42. O’DOHERTY. op cit.,


43. Other projects by Lina Bo Bardi that should be highlighted are: Museu de Arte Moderna da Bahia (1959), Teatro Oficina (1984), Fundação Pierre Verger (1989).


44. GROSSMANN, Martin A atualidade do Centro Cultural São Paulo, TENDÊNCIAS/DEBATES section of the Jornal Folha de São Paulo newspaper on 14th July 2010, p. 3.


45. GROSSMANN, Martin Outra objetividade - o CCSP no olhar dos artistas, introduction text for exhibition carried out at the Centro Cultural São Paulo from May to August 2007 < >


46. These are: City’s Art Collection, Multimedia Archives, Folk Research Mission, Oneyda Alvarenga Audio Collection.


47. MARAR, Ton, Ao Hipercubo in exhibition catalogue AO3 CUBO [cubed], curated by Luciana Brito and Martin Grossmann, Paço das Artes, São Paulo, March and April 1997, p.25.


48. Hyperspace, in Geometry, refers to spaces with more than 3 dimensions, that is, n-dimensional.


49. The concept of critical-creative action/management - still in process of formulation - emerges from the conjunction of several theories and strategies, as well as a process of appropriation. It was conceived during the development of the Centro Cultural São Paulo’s institutional programme, under the directorship of this article’s author, from July 2006 to May 2010. It is a hybrid concept, materialised mainly through the practices promoted by cultural actions such as those highlighted in this text: those of the anti-museum, of the imaginary museum, of the laboratory museum, as well as those of artists who not only produce for the art system but also operate in the system in a self-critical and metalinguistic manner. History of Art has plenty of examples of this form of action. An instigating starting point are the prints by Albrecht Dürer that form the ‘didactic’ side of his work, composed of four books titled Underweysung der Messung mit dem Zirckel und Richtscheyt from 1525. In these books, the backstage of the artist’s creative processes are revealed, showing how perspective is obtained through a set of apparatuses, procedures and specific techniques, which, in their turn, are anchored on an ideology of space and representation that permeate the work. Another remarkable moment is the painting Las Meninas from 1656, which exposes Diego Velázquez’s conscious politics at the heart of the Spanish Kingdom of King Philip IV, a metalinguistic situation that has been explored by Foucault in his book The Order of Things from 1966, amongst many others. These approaches were followed by Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), Eduard Mamet (1832-1883) and Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), culminating with Marcel Duchamp, who is a cornerstone of this type of critical-creative action within the art system in the 20th century. His artistic-cultural action is a main reference for contemporary art production, especially with regards to the relationship between artist and institution.


50. GROSSMANN, Martin O Museu na Virtualidade IN Hipermuseu: a arte em outras dimensões, (2001) op cit.


51. Museological not only in the sense of a direct relation to Museology – field of museum studies and corresponding techniques such as conservation and cataloguing, its history and relation to society -, but also the various rationales developed and related to the realm of the museum, either the anti-museum, the artists’ (for instance, Marcel Duchamp, Marcel Broodthaers, Joseph Kosuth, etc.), or even the curators’, such as Szeemann - in a special section of Documenta 5 (1972) he explores the meaning and psychology of the sacred place today.


52. LÉVY, Pierre. As tecnologias da inteligência-o futuro do pensamento na era da informática. Rio de Janeiro: Editora 34, 1995.


53. DUARTE, Claudia Marcel Duchamp, olhando o Grande Vidro como interface, Rio de Janeiro, Rios Ambiciosos & N Imagem, 2000, pp. 10-11.


54. LONG, Norman, Development Sociology: Actor Perspectives, Routledge, 2001, p. 243.


55. Sociology of Development is the field of sociology that analyses the effects of the generalised mechanisation of production by adopting a perspective of interdependence between the economic, social and political dimensions. Initially, by using the Theory of Modernisation, it studied the necessary conditions for the access of non-industrialised or developing countries (the so-called ‘Third World’) to the Industrial Revolution. In the 1980s and 1990s this model began to be criticised mainly on the basis that it was still linked to post-colonial power relations. This criticism opened space to the proposition of other models and understandings, such as the one highlighted in this text.


56. Browsing Interfaces: Mosaic, launched in 1993, was the first browser available for free in the internet designed in a way that usability could be improved, through graphic interfaces. However, Nestcape was the browser that really marked this opening, and was followed by Microsoft.


57. DUCHAMP, Marcel The Creative Act, Houston, 1957 (IN BATTCOCK, Gregory A Nova Arte, São Paulo Perspectiva, 1975, pp 71-74.


58. GROSSMANN, Martin, Do Ponto de Vista à Dimensionalidade, ITEM, Revista de Arte, n.3, Rio de Janeiro, February 1996, p. 29-37.


59. GROSSMANN, Martin Museum Imaging: modelando a modernidade. Summary of the main ideas developed in his PhD thesis, published in English: Spatial Imaging: Modelling Modernity in (anais) First Symposium Multimedia for Architecture and Urban Design, São Paulo, FAU-USP, April 1994, pp 51-62.


60. SULZBACHER, Tatiana Cavalheiro, op cit.