Teen Screens—Years in the Making

Michael Batista discusses the creation of the exhibition Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition and his role as a designer at the Museum.


Directed, shot, and edited by Pamela Kwong, Ashley Miah, and Mauricio Pardo as part of the 2011 Art and Film summer workshop for teens at the Museum.

This film was a collaboration between The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Film Academy.


Michael Batista: I've been a designer in museums since 1977. We're now standing in the new Islamic galleries that are slated to open in October, and this project is going to be about eight years in the making.

Visitor on the Museum steps: Well I guess he's the one in charge of… I don't know.

Visitor 2: I'm not sure, I don't say anything.

Visitor 3: Um…

Visitor 4: Um…

Visitor 5: Um…

Visitor 6: I don't really know for sure but I'm assuming they put together the exhibits.

Visitor 7: …decide what's going to be in the exhibit, how's it going to look…

Visitor 8: …design the exhibit and kind of decide where things go…

Visitor 9: …and understand rooms and space and how people are going to move through it. It must have to do with the lighting. I mean that's what enables you to kind of see the work and feel the work in a unique way.

Michael Batista: An exhibition designer is someone that works with a curator and is responsible for designing the physical space and the physical installation of an art exhibit.

Visitor 10: Is it different than a curator?

Michael Batista: It's the curator who brings the show together. It's their idea, it's their thesis, it's their baby. The introduction to the show starts off with a huge mosaic, and it's going to be installed mounted on a wall. This'll be a pretty amazing vista as you come and enter the show, rather than having it on the floor, which would really, in essence, eat up the whole room. If you walk into a space and go, "Wow, look at this gallery" instead of "Wow, look at this art," then I didn't really do that great a job. For me as a designer, the more variety and the more difference in the art—it becomes more of a challenge and more exciting for me. If it's a show about all ceramics or all metalwork…but when there's a huge variety not only of material but of scale, then it's a designer's dream. And a great curator, So that makes it all come together.

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