Decade of Discovery

 In Culture, Feature

A unique, architecturally focused exhibition celebrates the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis 10th anniversary.


When Chief Curator Dominic Molon first began ruminating on how to celebrate the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis’ 10th anniversary, he only knew that he didn’t want to do some trite or overworked theme. Two years later, the satisfying result is an unprecedented collaboration titled “Place is the Space,” running Sept. 6-Dec. 29. It’s a bittersweet event for Molon, who leaves CAM this month to assume a position as curator of contemporary art at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum.

The exhibition celebrates the building itself, while also demonstrating CAM’s 10 years of progress, by bringing together five international artists to create original works that inhabit particular spaces in the museum and explore how people interact with those spaces. Co-curated by Molon and the building’s architect, Brad Cloepfil, the exhibit is a rare collaboration between a museum and its designer. Typically, an architect designs a space and moves on, but Cloepfil has always stayed in touch with the CAM staff. “He has a fondness for the building in terms of what it represented to his career and its success as an institution,” Molon says. Cloepfil, founding principal of Allied Works Architecture, was an up-and-coming architect when he was selected to design CAM, beating out several established architects for the honor. Upon the building’s completion, he received considerable praise for creating a simple and sophisticated building that challenged the perception that a museum has to be a bejeweled edifice of grandiose proportions.

The artists for “Place is the Space” were selected for their tendency to make art that requires a museum and a relationship to its architecture. Carla Arocha and Stéphane Schraenen explore the possibilities of material with their installation of an overlapping spiral pattern on selected windows. Jill Downen features the seaming of a long fissure in the concrete floor of the main gallery. Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle addresses issues of scale, proportion and surface with a massive cube of charred cedar planks. Virginia Overton uses raw and everyday materials reductively to explore their physical properties and the dynamics of their placement in the space. And Dominique Petitgand addresses the relationship between the spoken word, silence, music and space with abstract sounds.

“We looked at the things that define the building,” Molon says. “These artists are very informed by how the work interacts with the space and the people interact with both the space and the art.”

Don’t miss opening night of “Place is the Space” and CAM’s other fall exhibitions on Sept. 6, and mark your calendars for the museum’s anniversary gala next spring. More info at



Virginia Overton, Untitled

Virginia Overton, Untitled (Convex), 2011.


Virginia Overton, Untitled (sandbag)


Photo credit: CAM photos courtesy of Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York/CAM.

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