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Art and the Power of Placement By Victoria Newhouse. Monacelli Press, 2005. 304pp. £35


Though Victoria Newhouse says she is only offering 'tentative guidelines', this book looks closely at all aspects of 'placing art' - the texture of the walls, the length of them, their colour, frames, labels, scale, context, and the kind of light.

In the process some famous institutions are found wanting (the Musée d'Orsay, for instance) and even such generally acclaimed buildings as Zumthor's Kunsthaus Bregenz and Kahn's Kimbell Museum don't escape criticism - the latter for the problems posed for paintings by its travertine-clad walls.

Newhouse's last book, Towards a New Museum (AJ 29.10.98), remains one of the best surveys of what's been built in the current museum boom. In considering how an artwork's placement affects its perception and meaning, this new volume moves in closer: to a large Pollock painting hung near-perfectly in the apartment of its owner, Ben Heller, not 'lost' on a long museum wall; and to the Nike statue rescued from a backroom to take pride of place at the top of the Louvre's grand staircase.

By following a blockbuster Egyptian show to successive venues, Newhouse debates the pros and cons of three different installations. Her case studies are well illustrated, so we can see what she means.

Though Newhouse's subjects are mostly at the high end of art, even masterpieces, and her scope is international, her insights are just as applicable to a job in the English provinces, and her book should make audiences more discriminating too.

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