Prem Krishnamurthy: Double Agency

The hour began with Krishnamurthy answering yes or no questions posed by the audience.

“Will you ever fill an exhibition space with balloons?”

Photo by: Amber Gregory

Krishnamurthy is an exhibition designer interested in the overlap of curating and design. His studio is called Project Projects and knows that the question of agency is at the core of his work and to what extent those roles overlap and become more over the course of a project. “the work of a graphic designer never actually ends at the things that are in a scope of work…but rather your involved in content in all kinds of different ways, the same goes for exhibition designers.” The intermingling of the two is where the interesting things come about.

He founded Project Projects with Adam Michaels 10 years ago in New York and was based on a premise that they could create a design studio that was focused on making work within art and culture. They work editorially and curatorial on content with their clients. They help these museums, institutions and organizations think about their identity and how they communicate themselves apart from products, books and publications.

“As an exhibition designer you are indelibly touching the content that you are somehow mediating.”

Krishnamurthy has a particular interest in spaces and how they “offer the opportunity for a direct encounter with an object, idea and experience and at the same time also offers a direct encounter with somebody else.” An exhibition is a place for people to come together to look and experience something, which he finds to have a potency in that form. He has been increasingly focused on this form and helping institutions with the content and create strategy of an exhibition space.

He posed the question, how can a design system be curatorial? His points about using identity as a curatorial system and being able to be opened up and do secondary things was inspiring in a world where things do not change rapidly. His project with a cultural institution called SALT in Istanbul commissioned designers to create a different version of the name SALT from the original typeface that was created for the organization called Kralice Grotesque. The typeface changed periodically and now serves as a kind of archive date stamp on SALT’s website.

Krishnamurthy has an exhibition space in China Town on the Lower East Side of New York City called P!. It is an interesting space that doesn’t have a fixed graphic identity, each show creates its own context. Every show has a designated typography and the press releases then become their own piece of that specific exhibition, another date stamp. The facade is molded by the exhibitions that are shown in the space. The space then becomes a layered art piece with the remnants of what was occupying it before. P!’s mission statement is a mad lib where the blanks can be filled by people who come by so that it is variable and changed over time.

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Prem Krishnamurthy

Prem Krishnamurthy is a New York-based designer and curator. As a founding principal of award-winning design studio Project Projects, he has collaborated with clients including the Art Institute of Chicago, Bard Center for Curatorial Studies, Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive, Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, Field Operations, Guggenheim Museum, Harvard University, Istanbul Design Biennial, M+ Museum, MoMA, RISD Museum, SALT, Steven Holl Architects, Vera List Center for Art & Politics, Whitney Museum, and Yale University Art Gallery. Project Projects is a two-time finalist for the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum’s National Design Awards. Prem is also the founding director/curator of P!, a multidisciplinary exhibition space in New York City’s Chinatown. Positioned between a commercial gallery and a “Mom-and-Pop-Kunsthalle,” P!’s exhibitions with Åbäke, Mel Bochner, Katarina Burin, Oliver Laric, Margaret Lee, Karel Martens, Brian O’Doherty, Sarah Oppenheimer, Société Réaliste, Kit Yi Wong, and others have been covered by publications including Artforum, Frieze, Art in America, Design Observer, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal. He has edited books such as MATRIX / Berkeley: A Changing Exhibition of Contemporary Art (with Elizabeth Thomas) and Speculation, Now: Essays and Artworks (with Vyjayanthi Rao and Carin Kuoni, forthcoming). Prem is the Associate Editor of the art journal Paper Monument and serves on the Board of Directors of the online magazine Triple Canopy. His occasional live program, “Perchance: A Talkshow of P’s” premiered in Fall / Winter 2013 at Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York.
He left us with this thought. “At first glance we might look at this and think, what does this have to do with graphic design? For me, I think that it’s an extremely design oriented process. Because for one thing, when traditional curators think about work, they think about objects, and thats a great thing. Curating comes from caring for things. On the other hand, graphic designers think about systems and communication and I think the melding of these things together is something interesting. To think systematically about how to make an exhibition in an unconventional way, but also to make that process transparent and self reflexive and something that can also be enjoyed by somebody and communicated is, for me, the most important thing.”


Text — India Sabater @IndigoPlatinum