Taken From Behind: Lina Bo Bardi’s Back, Baby

Collection in Transformation: installation view at MASP, São Paulo. photo: MASP via designboom

It’s been almost ten years since Adriano Pedrosa brought Lina Bo Bardi’s glass & concrete easels back to MASP in São Paulo, and I guess I thought the world would have long since filled up with photos from the back. It is literally the first thing I think about every time I see one.

MASP cavaletes de cristal, as they were called in 2015, Juan Augustin Rojas via dezeen

Though there was some spec info at the time, and a shoutout to Metro, the architects responsible for the updated/refabricated easels, then known as cavaletes de cristal. [Metro who, it must be noted now, as I go back and add this link at the end of writing this post, has an extensive documentation of the historical, technical, and production aspects of the project. Could it literally just be me avoiding dezeen for years and wondering why I never see architecture PR?]

2015 installation video at MASP showing Lina Bo Bardi’s cavaletes di vidro, TV Fölha/YT

This 2016 TV Folha video is one of the few things I’ve found showing the back, the hardware, and the installation process.

Lina Bo Bardi, Cavaletes di Vidro, 1968/2024, concrete, glass, wood, neoprene, steel, at the Arsenale in Pedrosa’s Stranieri Ovunque — Foreigners Everywhere, photo © Marco Zorzanello, La Biennale di Venezia, via designboom

Until now. Pedrosa’s use of Bo Bardi’s easels in the Venice Biennale is delivering the backside images I’ve been low-key sporadically craving. Last month Designboom did a post on the easels in Venice, with lots of detail shots [above], installation views, and even official verso photos from MASP [top].

Richard Rogers, Rogers House, 1968, image via archdaily

Though Venice probably churned them up from the mental depths, I thought of Bo Bardi’s easels this morning after seeing a photo of the house Richard Rogers built for his parents, an all-time favorite of mine. I imagined hanging art in it, and wondered if Bo Bardi’s easels would work? And if anyone besides Pedrosa has ever used them, and anywhere besides a museum?

Thinking of all the kinds of art that aren’t single, framed pictures in one of three sizes, suddenly Bo Bardi’s easels show their limitations, or at least their age, their era. Would you use Bardi easels at home if they only worked for like half your stuff? Could you rig a Bo Bardi assembly for your Olafur photo grid? Funny I should mention that.

Olafur Eliasson, Your Fading Self (West), 2013, installed at i8 Gallery in Reykjavik in 2013, photo: Vigfus Birgisson, via olafureliasson.net

In 2013, two years before they reappeared at MASP, Olafur Eliasson showed sculptures based on Bo Bardi’s easels at i8, his gallery in Reykjavik. On at least five sculptures, the glass is half-silvered in one of four directions; so, for example, the left side of Your Fading Self (West), above, reflects a photo grid (The Hut Series, 2012, it turns out), while the right side reveals the gallery door behind it. They were originally imagined for a 2013 exhibition at Bardi’s Casa di Vidro curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist.

installation view of Your Fading Self (West), 2013, in Symbiotic Seeing, at Kunsthaus Zurich, 2020, photo: Franca Candrian via olafureliasson.net

Here it is again, from the back, in a Jan-March 2020 show at the Kunsthaus Zurich, where the overwhelming characteristic of this most dramatic of art installation objects is its near complete invisibility.

Lina Bo Bardi’s “radical” glass easels revived for exhibition of Brazilian art [dezeen]
cavaletes de cristal, são paulo, 2015, Metro Arquitectos [metroo.com.br]
the story behind lina bo bardi’s legendary glass easels, now on view at venice art biennale [designboom]
Previously, related: Waderunner; this sick bronze Italian easel for Facsimile Objects