For Frieze London 2017, Hauser & Wirth recreated a fictional Bronze Age presentation from a forgotten museum. Realised in collaboration with Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, ‘BRONZE AGE c. 3500 BC – AD 2017’, focuses solely on works made of bronze. These include artefacts on loan from international museums and private collections nationwide, sculptures by artists including Louise Bourgeois, Henry Moore and Fausto Melotti, and miscellaneous bronze objects purchased from eBay, masquerading as archaeological finds. Moving away from the traditional white walls of an art fair, this presentation challenged expectations and highlights the power of display.
In ‘BRONZE AGE c. 3500 BC – AD 2017’, the art fair visitor is invited to enter the overlooked corner of a museum. Passing by an invigilator’s desk, the viewer encounters mismatched vitrines, assembled piecemeal seemingly over decades. These host a plethora of bronze objects: painting sticks cast in bronze for this very presentation (Phyllida Barlow), tarnished sink-stoppers (Marcel Duchamp), ancient spear heads from ebay, a bronze head dug up on the bank of River Brue (Bruton Museum, Somerset) and a butt-plug toting Santa Claus (Paul McCarthy). Beard elaborates on the combination of these objects: ‘I thought the playacting, whimsical nature of the project sounded like a bit of fun and while we’ve approached the presentation as a satire, it’s also a way to reinvigorate how people think about history, archaeology and museum display. It’s partly about the way we look. Who knows how and where inspiration strikes! I’m very keen on keeping alive our connection to the past and our conversation with it; and this project encapsulates that in a very accessible way.’