Dangerous Exhibitions

1980s Artists Exhibitions Staff

Prioritizing the artist's intent comes with some interesting side effects.

Jannis Kounellis, where there was fire in the galleries, and where we had to work with the fire department—and, again, I didn't do this alone, but I was involved—and work with the fire department to be sure. Kounellis wanted to use propane tanks, and you can't bring propane tanks into public or any kind of building in the city of Chicago. So we had to—again, working with facilities people and the gas company—we had to repipe some gas pipes up to the galleries so that Kounellis could have a source to ignite, to have a pipe, which would be shooting fire out in a stream from large panels of steel. And because risk management was part of my job then, it was challenging to think about people who would be here at openings, and how close they might get when it was really crowded. And just the idea that somebody might be injured, or—so that was exciting. It was a beautiful, fantastic show.

Melvin Charney—I hope I have his name right—did an intervention to the building where he had large plywood panels that essentially covered most of the front of the building so that it looked as if it were literally all boarded up. And I'm sure there's a lot of scholarship and feeling behind—I can't remember now what he would say—what he did say about it. But the concern was, was that safe? Would—if there were a 70-mile-an-hour wind happen—coming down Ontario Street, would those panels fly off? So, again, working with the preparators and facility. But that was exciting.

And Nam June Paik had a major exhibition there, and we—the royal "we" here, the preparators and the facilities people—had to cut a hole in the ceiling of the gallery for the V-yramid, or—it was a pyramid of video and televisions or screens, monitors. And it went up in the sky too high for the gallery across the front, the Bergman Gallery.  

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