The Theatergarden Bestiarium documents an extraordinary theater garden created in 1989 by thirteen international artists at the Institute for Contemporary Art, P.S. 1 Museum.
The pruned seventeenth-century playground of Louis XIV's Versailles, the "theater garden," was a backdrop for fantasy and diversion, a central forum for public art. In this sense it was the historical precedent for nineteenth-century exposition parks and modern high-tech dreamworlds such as Coney Island and Disneyland. The Theatergarden Bestiarium documents an extraordinary theater garden created in 1989 by thirteen international artists at the Institute for Contemporary Art, P.S. 1 Museum. Based on an idea by Rudiger Schottle, the project provokes questions about contemporary exhibition-making, investigating the transformation of the Renaissance garden into museum spectacle and the consequences of the rise of the modern city and, from it, of a middle-class public for art. The book includes the artists' preliminary drawings, notes, and plans for the exhibition as well as some 200 illustrations that amplify the cultural and historical ideas that inform the project. A portfolio of photographs of the installation by David Levinthal challenges the manner in which exhibitions are depicted by traditional museums. Essays by Rudiger Schottle, Chris Dercon, Frederic Migayrou, Naomi Miller, Antje von Graevenitz, Dan Graham, Johanne Lamoureux, Richard Sennett, and Marianne Brouwer probe the evolution of theaters in gardens, how architecture can derive its meaning from its surroundings, and how contemporary installations evolve from picturesque gardens. Copublished with The Institute of Contemporary Art, P.S. 1 Museum Distributed by The MIT Press.