The MAK invites you to a lecture by MoMA’s Chief of Archives, Library and Research Collections, Michelle Elligott, on the seminal MoMA director René d’Harnoncourt, born in Vienna in 1901 and one of the most influential figures with regard to exhibition design and innovative curatorial approaches.
René d’Harnoncourt—artist, curator and director of The Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) from 1949 to 1968—is widely known for his conscientious and revolutionary approach to curating and exhibition design. A deep love for the work of art coupled with a talent for drawing, but above all his self-developed method for installing exhibitions made d’Harnoncourt, who had arrived in the New World as an “Austrian nobleman chemist,” an extraordinary exhibition organizer and museum director.
His unique approach to installation design and display shaped a methodology that has influenced how exhibitions are organized to this day. Starting with meticulous drawings of the objects to be exhibited, he then considered exciting groupings of and dialogues between the works. His detailed “vistas”—elevations of the galleries—aimed to conjure in advance the viewer’s perspective and experience in the space.
The lecture will showcase d’Harncourt’s life and career from his birth into an aristocratic landowning family in Austria, to his formative years in Mexico, and his career as an exhibition maker and museum director in New York. D’Harnoncourt’s deep love for works of art, which he put into dialogue with each other, together with his talent for drawing, the compelling exhibition displays that were exciting for viewers, and his approach of presenting art from outside the Western canon are still groundbreaking today and have inspired generations of curators.