A marked preference for
»When you receive your picture, I beg of you, if you like it, to provide it with a small frame; it needs one so that, in considering it in all its parts, the eye shall remain concentrated …«
Nicolas Poussin, 1639
Frames establish territories. On top of their material constitution, frames are enactments of demarcation. Frames mediate social, cultural and economic dispositions. A frame draws a line between the internal and the external. Leaving the private for the public sphere, an artwork requires framing. This can take place – as Poussin points out – as a practical decision relating to the substance and purpose of the frame. But also spaces themselves work as frameworks. The museum of art played a part in the constitution of the bourgeoisie. During the rise of European national states, the museum of art was deemed a stabilizing agent of the system – for instance as a retreat for the individual – as well as a catalyst of identity.
In opposition to academic painting, the impressionists turned the frame itself into a political issue. Instead of using golden frames – previously a requirement to be granted exhibition – they turned to plain wooden frames. Simplicity as »manifesto«. Wooden frames as »hallmarks of anti-academic painting perceived as radically different« (Eva Mendgen) and as symbol of a liberation from, and an affront to, marketing pressures. With the rise of the art market, handy framing, be it made from wood or gold, allowed the transportation of art, serving a practical function, since acquired property could now be taken home. The new function of art, as loan, for educational or recreational purposes, entailed »privatization«.
The frame has long since lost its explosiveness as a topic of formal quality. Photographs, paintings or sculptures are for the most part framed by their own physical margins. Other kinds of frames, however, operate by means of inclusion and exclusion. Private and institutionalized space is defined by its seclusion from the public sphere. Within this space, art acts as balancing out, as educating or soothing. These borderlines inform about the societal, social and and artistic requirements of framing. Defining boundaries always already implies the possibility to cross those boundaries. In fact, they are overcome, challenged or shifted.
Frontviews is showing approaches that deal with the way artworks set and cross boundaries to determine the conditions and possibilities for them to be perceived – and in reference to the Greek and German, the public and the private spheres.