Louise Downe

Rapid prototyping museums

What do you do when you have a collection of over 60,000 objects, a gallery space that's open 7 days a week and a new exhibition to plan?

This is Tate's new 'dummy' gallery space, completed earlier this year at their Elephant and Castle storage facility in London. More frequently used to house works not on display, the vast industrial hanger off the Old Kent road now plays host to a recreation of one of Tate Modern's exhibition spaces.

“It makes it easier for curators to plan the flow of a room, get the lighting right and position any complicated floor mounted works. Its often hard to predict how works will sit together from photographs”, one art handler told me.

Exhibitions can be planned anything from 3-10 years in advance at Tate (depending on how much research and jostling for loaned works is needed) and cardboard models are often used early on in the process to plan the overall structure of an exhibition.

This new test room allows curators to plan the human factors of an exhibition well in advance, things like lighting, height and the distance of works from one another that can be impossible to predict from a model.

The space was designed and built by exhibition specialists, MC Designs.