Sektion 8: Wall labels. Beschriftungen in Ausstellungen zwischen Bild, Text und Raum
Chiara Ianeselli, Rom

Labeless Labels: Case Studies at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

This paper’s research area is situated in the framework of commitment to rethink the ethics of representations various institutions have undertaken for what concerns labels and the policies of label making, in particular in the context of the UK, the USA and Germany. The role of labels indeed has changed over the last decades, and from being apparently objective, factual data, they have gained a wide range of functions. Now they can be considered interpretative, reflective tools aimed at providing a more in-depth analysis on a variety of subjects, as for example provenance, artists’ insights, or contextualization. While some museums have tried to opt out of labels entirely or to introduce more multimedia devices (MONA in Tasmania, amongst others, or the Worcester Art Museum, where, according to Matthias Waschek, the director of the museum, “works were just blossoming on the wall and in the room, without labels” [in: ART News 2015, online]), other institutions display labels which suffer of extreme length or the use of a too specialized language, up to the point of being “veritable masterpieces of cryptography” (George Weiner, Why Johnny Can’t Read Labels, in: Curator. The Museum Journal 6/2 (1963), p. 147). Institutions have also launched several initiatives aimed at diversifying exhibitions, reaching broader audiences, and removing cultural biases from their programming; labels in some cases reflect these major changes. The constant analysis and interpretation of instable works of art is supported by, for example, the introduction of smart/digital labels, which can be changed in real time, as in the case of the AMLABEL Digital Gallery Display. This paper presents the current status of labels at the Gemäldegalerie and the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin and reflects the current trends by comparing these cases with recent debates around titling issues (and labeling practices) at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. In place of their legacy as solely informational, if not instructional tools, labels are now required to take on a new role as discussion forums.

Kurzbiografie Chiara Ianeselli
2008–2011BA in Cultural Heritage, Trento (“The Spirals of Roberto Crippa: Critical Aspects and Dating Questions”), Graduate Merit Award
2011–2016MA in Conservation and Management of Cultural Heritage, Trento (“The Trans-historical Exhibition, From an Exhibition Model to Museum Structure Artempo and the Museum of Old and New Art (2007–2014)”)
2012dOCUMENTA(13) Curatorial Department Assistant
2013Curatorial Assistant to the Production Manager of the oO Lithuanian – Cypriot Pavilion and the Chilean Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale
2014–2015de Appel Curatorial Programme, Amsterdam, NL (Final exhibition Project: Spell to Spelling ** Spelling to Spell)l)
2015Production Manager Assistant “Neurathian Boatstrap,” Marcos Lutyens 14th Istanbul Biennial, SALTWATER: A Theory of Thought Forms, by CC-Bakargiev, TR
2016–2017Villa Lena Foundation & Residency Coordinator Head of the Educational Activities, Palaia, Italy
2017–2021PhD in Analysis and Management of Cultural Heritage, IMT School for Advanced Studies, Lucca, Italy (“The Untitled Title in 20th Century Art: Revolutionary Aspects and Implications”)
2021–2022documenta fifteen, Curatorial Coordinator, Kassel
2023Fellow at the Institute for Museum Research, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Research topic: Labels and accessibility in a selection of case studies)
Forschungs- bzw. Arbeitsschwerpunkte Museum labels as spaces for social exchange; labels as discussion platforms; multidisciplinary collaborations; transhistorical perspectives in exhibitions
  • (Ed.) Au. Monographic book on the work of Oscar Santillán, Berlin 2017.
  • Roadside Picnic Within Megall’s Kaleidoscopic Journey, in: Rafaell Megall, Official Catalogue 57th Venice Art Biennale, Armenian Pavilion, 2017.
  • (with Andrea Cozza and Emanuele Armocida) Anatomical Theaters, in: Medic, Methodology & Education for Clinical Innovation – New Series, October 2017.
  • Charbel-Joseph H. Boutros and Stéphanie Saadé, In Touch 2, in: Journal of Curatorial Studies 11/1 (2022).
  • Carlo Benvenuto. L’originale, ex. cat. Trento 2022.