We need more galleries that exhibit graphic design

Observer: We need more galleries that exhibit graphic design by Rick Poynor

«On the rare occasions that an exhibition of graphic design appears, it’s a safe bet that one complaint will always be heard. Graphic design, someone will say, just doesn’t work in a gallery. It isn’t art and it can’t possibly be properly understood out of context. It only has meaning out in the world in the places where it was intended to communicate. Curiously, the people making this criticism will usually be graphic designers.


Exhibition showing the work of James Joyce at Kemistry Gallery, London



 This objection has always seemed misguided to me. If you are the kind of person who enjoys looking at exhibits in galleries— historical artifacts, period costumes, scientific instruments, archaeological discoveries—it is impossible to confuse the conventions of display with the sometimes very distant reality from which the object comes. The experience, aided by captions, maps, contextual images, reconstructions, and revealing relationships between the exhibited objects, will always require an act of imagination from the viewer. It’s too bad that we are not usually able to touch exhibits, considerably reducing access to, for instance, a book with many pages. But, even so, if it’s valid to study every other kind of object or artifact in galleries, why should we exclude graphic communication?
The problem isn’t that curators sometimes have the temerity to display graphic design. No, it’s that in 2010, there are still so few places in which this can happen.
 (…) For years now, a great deal of graphic design has occupied a productive but not always fully appreciated zone somewhere between art and design as it was once traditionally defined. The visual or conceptual complexity that gives this kind of project extra value for the viewer as communication means that it is entirely suited for more leisurely contemplation in the gallery. Galleries, like magazine articles and monographs, offer an opportunity to discover continuities and departures across an individual’s body of work that might not otherwise be apparent.» [MORE]

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