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Gérard Mermoz and the Pitt Rivers Museum
I was recently in Oxford doing among other things arcane research about paneled rooms, and discovered these photographs. (Are decorators at the Jayne Design Studio the only ones left who employ paneled rooms? I find nothing is equivalent to the kind of background old paneling provides for decoration.)
The photographs are from the Pitt Rivers Museum, a Victorian collection of ethnographic and anthropological specimens arranged by types. What is fantastic is that the old system of arrangement has been maintained, row after row of sarcophagus-shaped glass vitrines filled with a diversity of man made objects, from baskets to shrunken heads.
In the last five years, the entire collection has been conserved and replaced. Very happily, the atmosphere is true to the original. Of course, I like the complication of old fashioned museums where collections are densely displayed with inevitable interesting juxtaposition.
As part of the reinstallation, the artist, Gérard Mermoz, was commissioned to make a series of photographs of the collections including the ones at top. Mr. Mermoz describes himself as an artist interested in “photo-based artistic practice” where he curates existing collections, bringing together disparate objects that take on new meaning in each other presence and then documenting the results.
Of course, as a decorator, I like his images because they are about contrast. As I always say, contrast is core to decoration and is created by the subtle and not so subtle arrangement of objects.
Which is part of the reason why I like paneled rooms…
From top: Museographies (Comb. Christ), 2009 (detail) at left, Museographies (Comb. Christ), 2008 at right; views of the PittRiversMuseum; Histoires #17 (Marquis, Dogon), 2005-06.