They became the first architects in this role since 1989, when Scott Burton exhibited the Brancusi sculpture pedestals (from the MoMA collection) as stand-alone works of art in the first exhibition of this series.
Herzog and de Meuron titled their exhibition Perception is Limited, focusing on the low level of attention of museum visitors to the works of art on display.
The architects have designed a sufficient number of exhibition spaces of all kinds to fully understand the difficulties that curators face today. The second important aspect of their creativity as designers of the exhibition space at the Museum of Modern Art is their loss in the final of the architectural competition for the design of the new MoMA building to the proposal of Yoshio Taniguchi. Although their dissatisfaction with his decision for the museum space was never openly expressed, Herzog and de Meuron completely crossed out all the main features (and advantages) of the new building in their design.
The hall of the Perception is Limited exhibition is completely covered with black cloth and darkened. There are 14 LCD screens on the ceiling, showing fragments of various films (Andy Warhol, Martin Scorsese, the Coen brothers, etc.); these are either dramatic scenes with a high intensity of passions, or episodes of violence, or love scenes. To make it easier for visitors to watch them, there are benches in the hall equipped with small hand-held mirrors (so that the public does not have to lift their heads).
Three large niches are arranged along the perimeter of the walls, almost completely covered by screens. You can only look inside through narrow slots. It is there that 110 works are presented, selected by Herzog and de Meuron from the collections of the museum; this selection is the essence of the cycle "Artist's Choice". They are divided into types corresponding to the main departments of MoM: architecture and design (Olivetti typewriter Ettore Sottsas 1969, printed fabric by William Morris in 1883, a model of the depot building for Basel by the curators themselves), photography (William Eggleston, Cindy Sherman, Robert Adams), sculpture and painting (Jackson Pollack, Jasper Johns, Joseph Boyes, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons).
The idea of Herzog and de Meuron, which they tried to express with their curatorial project, is that a person is now corrupted by cinema and the media, and in order to capture his attention, a work of art has to master the blockbuster format. Today, a wider circle of people visit museums and are interested in art than in any historical era. But whether they see the cultural monuments they are looking at, and whether they remember them, remains in doubt. Also in this one can see the hidden criticism of the Taniguchi building: in its cold labyrinth-like galleries, the viewer loses orientation in space, and makes fragmentary impressions about a small part of all the exhibits on display, arranged according to a rigid, textbook principle of typology, like a visitor to the exhibition “Perception is limited .