The millennial enthusiasm for museum building and refurbishment was accompanied by the destruction of many beautiful twentieth century museum interiors and a large number of period display cases. I noticed this phenomenon during research into display cases in over fifty English museums and archives between 2004 and 2006. The research resulted in two interrelated works. G series is an edition of multiples exhibited in loaned museum display cases. The Twentieth century display case archive highlights the aesthetic development of twentieth century architecture as expressed in museum display cases and interiors. The two works were initially shown together at our flat in Barbican in the City of London in 2006. The archive was also reprinted as a photographic essay in Sculpture and the Vitrine, published by Ashgate in association with the Henry Moore Institute (2013).
One of my favourite examples of museum interiors corresponding to the forms of modern architecture was the British Museum prints and drawings gallery prior to the most recent refurbishment. The freestanding cases, designed by architect Gordon Bowyer as recently as 1990, were only in place for 15 years before being removed and destroyed. I see the destruction as an expression of the contradictory position that museums often take regarding the cultural value of the everyday objects they themselves produce. I commissioned Graham Murrell to document the British Museum cases a day or so before the contractors arrived. His beautiful photographs, taken in black and white from a low viewpoint, emphasise the architectural forms of the cases, bringing to mind the low rise blocks of Le Corbusier, English Brutalism and Donald Judd furniture. A selection are published here for the first time.