Picture Gallery in Transformation: Tate at MASP


Picture Gallery in Transformation is a long-term exhibition featuring a selection of works from the MASP collection. The exhibition focuses on figurative art, reflecting the history of the museum’s collection and the interests of its founding director Pietro Maria Bardi (1900–1999). Unlike permanent exhibitions of other museum collections, Picture Gallery in Transformation changes almost weekly through loans, acquisitions, and a rotating display of works from the collection. In the perspective of a live and dynamic art gallery, beginning in 2018, MASP initiates an exchange program of works with museums from all over the world, allowing it to bridge gaps in its collection. Each year, MASP will display a selection of works from a partner institution in its crystal easels, in dialogue with its own collection. In this first year, the museum presents six paintings from the Tate in London, one of the most important collections of modern and contemporary art in Europe. 

MASP presents Picture Gallery in Transformation: Tate at MASP, an exhibition within the exhibition that will be on display until February 2019. The selection of works from Tate includes paintings by artists who have worked in the UK and whose works are aligned with some MASP’s interests, such as women artists [Gwen John (1876–1939) and Sylvia Sleigh (1916–2010)], immigrant artists [Ibrahim El-Salahi from Sudan, and Francis Newton Souza (1924–2002) from India], and artists considered as self-taught [L. S. Lowry (1887–1976)]. The selection also includes a work by Francis Bacon (1909–1992), a major reference in the history of figurative painting. In this first exchange, MASP reaffirms its commitment to promote multiple, inclusive, and plural readings in its gallery, always in transformation, and now in dialogue with works from Tate's collection. 

The crystal easels display is one of the most outstanding features of MASP. The museum is the only institution in the world to adopt this radical way of exhibiting paintings, conceived by Lina Bo Bardi (1914–1992), who also designed the building (inaugurated in 1968). The crystal easels make the works appear to be suspended in mid-air, inviting the visitor to walk through a kind of forest of pictures. Removing the paintings from the walls and hanging them on crystal easels atop concrete bases makes them more familiar and accessible to the public. The placement of informational labels on the back of the paintings allows for a more direct first encounter with the works, free of art historical identification or contextualization. The visitors are able to build their own paths, creating unexpected juxtapositions and dialogues between Asian, African, Brazilian, and European art. The open, fluid, transparent, and permeable gallery offers multiple possibilities of access and reading, eliminating hierarchies, predetermined scripts, and challenges canonical art historical narratives.