Daniel Buren – The Function of The Studio? What about the Gallery?

This post is partly about a brilliant new exhibition, but also asks about Art Galleries as family spaces.

Daniel Buren at Baltic

‘Catch as catch can: works in situ’ by Daniel Buren is currently in installation at the Baltic in Gateshead, OK so we should have waited for the sunniest of sunny days to really see the light captured in this work but I was too excited after seeing the gallery front facade with its 20 diamonds on my way to work most days, even on a slightly dull Sunday it was like being in a kaleidoscope with mirrors and tinted windows there’s something sunny and joyful about standing on Level 4 bathed in coloured light.


Photo souvenir : Daniel Buren 20 Diamonds for the Façade: work in situ 2014 BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art Transparent vinyl, white opaque (blue, green, red, yellow) Photo: John McKenzie. © DB-ADAGP Paris

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As a self confessed numbers geek I really enjoyed reading more about Buren’s work, his 8.7cm wide signature stripe features in many of his works and pops up at Baltic in the form of a border around the mirrors on Level 4, in an interview with The Journal he said“that was the dimension of the first linen I used when I did printing. I had some left and kept it for other things but it has a rhythm to it, one white stripe and then a coloured one, and it has become a visual tool.”

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Daniel Buren – The Function of The Studio?

Having written about the function of the studio in an essay in 1971 I was interested to learn that he is an artist without a studio, working instead in a range of spaces including galleries like the Baltic itself. Concerned with the idea that a work of art conceived in a studio is compromised as once moved to a gallery we are seeing it out of place I understood the nature of this work ‘in situ’ better, and seeing how he has worked with the architecture of the Baltic to design the facade and window gels I feel really lucky to live where we do and get to see so many innovative projects.

Family art gallery visits

I’m not an art expert and am nervous about speaking up about what I understand of and like about works, but I do love design and having the chance to immerse myself in new experiences is something I really enjoy.

I wondered whether all this would stop once Joss arrived, but actually I probably visit Baltic more now than I did before.

So what of the function of the gallery? The preserve of artists and academics? Of adults alone? Or a family space to be enjoyed by all?

With a play space on Level 2 and an education strand to their work programme Baltic welcomes children and families. I took the time to read some of the literature in the education space and thought about whether there had been exhibitions I would avoid with a toddler. There have been exhibitions that have been very open and accessible and probably too tempting for tots, but I would still have taken Joss in the sling and been respectful of the space, if she is too noisy or too boisterous then we would play in the kids area and try the exhibition another day.

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Developing creativity in children

Something I really liked was this life cycle of creativity development in children, it really made me think about getting the most out of our visits and convinced me of their value in Joss’ development; however under confident I feel in my own ‘understanding’ of the pieces we see, that ‘knowledge building’ happens without my intervention

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So are art galleries generally family spaces?

I was interested to know whether we are alone in trying to get out to see new exhibitions as often as we can with a tot in tow, and so I asked fellow bloggers how they feel about taking little ones into gallery spaces, I think we’ve concluded that it has to be the right kind of space and the right kind of exhibit, but that where possible interaction with art is to be welcomed:

  • Louise from My Gorgeous Boys (and they are really gorgeous!) said “I take my boys aged 5 and 7, and have taken them since they were babies, generally to family orientated events at galleries. Always been successful – they love it and I think it does provoke them to think about things that perhaps wouldn’t come under their radar in everyday life though sometimes I think it does go bit over their heads. Good fun though!”
  • Gillian blogs at A Baby on Board and shared a brilliant post about her visit to Tate Modern with her little girl, though she agreed “some art galleries are probably more suitable than others” she has taken Eliza into art spaces since she was really little
  • Vai from Rambling Through Parenthood is looking forward to taking her three year old on his first gallery visit; “we are taking our 3 year old son to the National Art Gallery this year. Will be his first time at one. He has loved museums, so I remain hopeful. We shall see. “
  • Anne from Raisie Bay also shared a post with me, about a visit to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery seeing her children interacting with the work and drawing their own interpretations links to this top tip from her – “We love visiting the art gallery and generally take some art books and pencils so the kids can recreate some art” – a great idea to take materials with you so you can create as you go!
  • I love this post that Rachel from The Little Pip shared with me, Paul Klee’s work cropped up in my year 9 art classes at school and her description of Pip’s interactions really brought the pieces to life for me again, in a different way, I’m in full agreement with her that “it’s never too young to start thinking of different ways of expressing and also different ways of interpreting emotion / perspective”
  • Becky from The Mummy Adventure made me realise how lucky we are to have an interactive space just 30 minutes from home “I will take mine to a more interactive or hands on gallery but I do find that taking my nearly 18 month old and nearly 3 year old is like torture at the moment. We attempted it but they were not interested unless they could experience it and this gallery was not like that. Maybe they are just the wrong age?
  • And Faded Seaside Mama agreed “I’ve tried talking mine to a local one that is apparently uber family-friendly. The looks I got from staff when my two tried to ‘interact’ with the art has confirmed everything I ever thought about art galleries. We are not that sort of family it would seem. Beach it is then!

I agree, it has to be a welcoming space and appropriate for children too, that’s not to say that there shouldn’t be places and spaces that are not open to children, a friend of mine pointed out that some parents do have a sense of entitlement that all places should be family friendly but generally people are sensible; the art gallery world has responded to this demand with ‘family open days’ so families are increasingly being welcomed into these spaces and most people respect the spaces and the works.

We’ll continue in our Baltic visits being flexible about what we see and do when we are there!

Catch as catch can: works in situ, is at Baltic until October 12.

2 thoughts on “Daniel Buren – The Function of The Studio? What about the Gallery?

  1. Those diamonds really do look amazing. I’d love to see them. I used to work under an Art Gallery which was not entirely child friendly, but throughout the summer they held family days which were lovely. So although I take my children to the Art gallery, I do think they would probably gain more from a family day.

  2. This looks like a wonderful exhibition. I found your round up of views very interesting too. My blog is mainly about introducing my children to culture from the start. We’ve had a few tricky gallery days but on the whole (even with a baby) the children seem to get a lot out of it – especially with my just 3 year old if I prep some activities to take along with me.

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