Last month, I got to see one of the wonders of the art world: Lina Bo Bardi’s exhibition design for the old master collection at the São Paulo Museum of Art in Brazil. In the display of works by Bo Bardi (1914-1992), the paintings are mounted on glass panes fixed to concrete bases rather than hung on the walls, creating a democratic field of pictures rather than a showcase of masterpieces. Bo Bardi’s exhibition design, developed from 1957 to 1968, served as a primary inspiration for Hans-Peter Feldmann’s current show at 303 Gallery.
Here, Mr. Feldmann has brought together several genres of painting — seascapes, portraits and female nudes — either bought at auction or, in the case of an Ingres bather, newly commissioned as a copy, and suspended the canvases by wires from the ceiling. The pleasure is in seeing paintings in gilded frames floating in space, like an analogue version of a Google search, with its multiple images and erratic results, as well as copies of famous paintings nestled alongside lesser-known works.
On the walls are a series of landscape paintings hung together so that their horizons create an unbroken line; a copy of Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” (1538) repainted with bikini suntan lines; and old-master-type portraits of children with red clown noses. Some of the jokes are rimshot one-liners that don’t carry much weight. But over all, the show is sympathetic with Bo Bardi’s radical design, which suggested that pictures are made and remade in the process of displaying them — sometimes with the help of artists who are simultaneously respectful and irreverent of art history.